Japan’s unnecessary election

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at his official residence in Tokyo, 18 November 2014. Abe called a snap election for December and put off a sales tax hike planned for next year until 2017. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

Prime Minister Abe is subjecting his ruling coalition — and his nation — to an unnecessary election on 14 December 2014. Abe claims his decision is all about policy, but in reality it is all about politics. His stated rationale for calling the election is the need to secure voters’ endorsement of his administration’s decision to postpone the consumption tax rise to 10 per cent until April 2017. But his real reasons are based on cold calculations of political self-interest. Read more…

Can Nishikawa resolve Japan’s TPP agricultural impasse?

Newly appointed Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Koya Nishikawa speaks during a press conference at the official residence of the Japanese prime minister in Tokyo, 3 September 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s appointment of Koya Nishikawa as the new Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) is a big plus for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Nishikawa is an executive of the so-called ‘agricultural tribe’ (norin zoku) in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Read more…

Why the US struggles against Japan in TPP negotiations

US Trade Representative Michael Froman speaks to reporters while Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari looks on during a press conference at the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministerial Meeting in Singapore, 20 May 2014. Trade ministers from 12 nations completed a two-day Ministerial meeting in Singapore targeted at creating a 12-nation trade pact in the Asian-Pacific region. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

Real progress in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations has stalled until Japan and the United States reach some kind of basic trade agreement — which is still elusive even after numerous rounds of talks. The United States has been pressuring Japan to make concessions in key areas such as agriculture.

It is well known that current TPP negotiations are running on two separate tracks: the plurilateral track in which all 12 countries are participating and the bilateral track which amounts to a series of bilateral deals being negotiated on the side. Read more…

China responds to Japan–US ‘sushi’ diplomacy

Effigies of Shinzo Abe and Barack Obama are displayed at a May Day event in Japan. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

The Chinese media exhaustively covered Obama’s visit to Japan on 23–25 April. There were references to the exorbitant cost of the Abe–Obama sushi dinner and the ¥25 million worth of entertainment laid on by Prime Minister Abe. But it was Obama’s verbal guarantees regarding the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands that attracted the most attention. Read more…

Japan and Australia ‘beef up’ relations

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the National Security Council in Tokyo on 7 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

The Economic Partnership Agreement that Japan recently concluded with Australia (JAEPA) has everything to do with Japanese trade strategy and little if anything to do with agricultural reform.

Some of the commentary on the agreement has argued that JAEPA was the product of Abe’s reform agenda, but it is neither part of that agenda nor will it advance it. Read more…

Can Abe’s third arrow pierce Japan’s agricultural armour?

Japanese farmers picking tea leaves under the summit of Mount Fuji in Shizuoka province, Japan. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

The third arrow of Abenomics (economic growth through structural reform) is flying neither high nor fast in Japan’s agricultural sector. The Abe administration’s agricultural reform program falls far short of what is needed for structural reform of the farm industry. This has implications for agricultural trade policy and for the kind of concessions that Japan will be prepared to make in international trade negotiations, both bilateral and plurilateral, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Read more…

China’s ADIZ risks conflict with Japan

A Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force P-3C patrol plane flying over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands on 13 October 2011. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

China’s newly declared air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea covers the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and overlaps with Japan’s own ADIZ. Its announcement has both political and military implications, particularly for China’s relations with Japan. Read more…

Can Japan defend the Senkaku Islands?

Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force's LCAC-2101 leaves a tank landing ship Osumi LCT 4001 (C) at dusk off Oshima Island, a remote island off Tokyo, Japan, 18 October 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW@ADFA

In the face of increasing Chinese incursions into its territorial waters and airspace over the past year, the defence of offshore islands in Japan’s southwest has become a pressing issue for both Japanese maritime policing and security policy. Read more…

Will Japan’s farmers support the LDP at the election?

Voters hold signs expressing opposition to Japan joining the TPP trade liberalization talks, as they listen to a stump speech by a candidate in Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture, on July 4, 2013, the day official campaigning started for the July 21 upper house election. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

One of the most important questions facing Japan’s LDP government in the coming Upper House election is whether it will win the farmers’ vote. The answer to this question lies partly in whether the agricultural cooperatives (Japan Agriculture, or JA) and its political organisations are backing LDP candidates in the 47 prefectural constituencies and the single proportional representation (PR) national constituency. Read more…

Abe’s ‘growth’ strategy for agriculture in Japan

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tours a tea plantation in  Kitsuski, Oita Prefecture on 18 May 2013. Abe recently pledged to revitalize the nation's agriculture policy. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

The Abe administration is releasing, in stages, the last of the ‘three arrows’ of Abenomics: a growth strategy designed to lift Japan’s competitiveness through pro-growth reforms.

 It is being done under the mantra of ‘no growth without action’ (kōdō nakushite seichō nashi), in the fashion of former Prime Minister Koizumi’s ‘no growth without reform’ slogan. Read more…

Abe rocks Japan’s constitutional boat

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sitting in the cockpit of a training airplane during his visit to an Air Self-Defense Force base in Higashimatsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, on May 12, 2013. South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai Young on May 16, 2013, criticized Abe for posing for a photo in the cockpit of a plane with the number 731 written on its body, as the figure reminds South Koreans of Unit 731, a former Japanese military unit believed to have conducted human experiments. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

Japan’s Prime Minister Abe and the ruling LDP are capitalising on their popularity and the deterioration in Japan’s regional security environment to launch a reinvigorated campaign to amend the Japanese Constitution. In April 2012, the LDP released new draft proposals for revising the document, the most important legacy of the US Occupation of Japan.

Despite the Abe cabinet’s 65 per cent approval rating, Read more…

Japan, US and the TPP: the view from China

Japanese Prime Minister Shizo Abe shakes hands with US President Barack Obama after their summit meeting in the Oval Office at the White House, in Washington DC on 22 February 2013. The two leaders confirmed that Japan would participate in the talks of Trans-Pacfic Partnership (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe successfully stared down opposition from the domestic farm lobby and his own ruling party to take Japan into the TPP negotiations. The other half of the equation — gaining the consent of TPP negotiating countries to Japan’s entry — was sealed at the recent APEC ministerial meeting in Indonesia.

But what does Japan’s largest trading partner, China, think of these developments? Read more…