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…

Obama mustn’t underestimate Modi

US Secretary of State John Kerry greets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, India, 1 August, 2014.

Author: Harshita Kohli, RSIS

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to India for the India–US Strategic Dialogue, in which he described India as an ‘indispensable partner for the 21st century’, is a clear effort by the American government to jumpstart the flagging bilateral partnership.

During his stay in India, Kerry met with senior politicians and leading Indian businessmen. US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel also visited New Delhi last week to further the US–India defence partnership. The increase in senior-level interactions between officials from both countries is designed to set the stage for the bilateral summit to be held between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama in Washington in late September 2014. Read more…

Collective self-defence: What Japan’s new defence policy means for international cooperation on cyber security

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Maj. Nishikawa Hajime analyses data transmissions on a computer at the Camp Naha gymnasium, Okinawa, 23 July 2014. (Photo: US Marin Corps/ Lance Cpl. Pete Sanders).

Author: Mihoko Matsubara, Pacific Forum CSIS

In July 2014, the Shinzo Abe cabinet took an epoch-making decision to change its interpretation of the Japanese constitution to recognise the right to collective self-defence. The Japanese government’s traditional interpretation of the constitution prohibited Japan from exercising the right to help the US, or Japan’s defence partners, in the case of an armed attack, even though Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations authorises this. Read more…

Back to the drawing board on US–India relations?

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel inspects a Guard of Honor before a meeting with his Indian counterpart, Arun Jaitley, in New Delhi, India, 8 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

The US–India strategic partnership is either the most underperforming bilateral relationship in the world or its most overrated. As a new chapter in this relationship is opened with the formation of a new centre-right government in New Delhi and the back-to-back visits by John Kerry and Chuck Hagel in late July and early August, it is imperative that the path that is charted ahead is informed by the lessons of the past decade and a half. Read more…

It’s do or die for the TPP

US President Barack Obama speaks to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk during a meeting with TPP leaders at the APEC summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, 12 November 2011. Those talks failed to finalise negotiations on the partnership before a previous deadline of 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Claude Barfield, AEI

Heading into the fifth year of intense negotiations (with twenty-odd formal sessions and countless informal side meetings), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement will almost certainly succeed — or fail — over the next six months. Read more…

Kerry, Hagel visits set agenda for Obama-Modi meeting

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel meets with senior Indian army officers in New Delhi. (Photo: AAP).

Author: C Uday Bhaskar, Society for Policy Studies

The recent back-to-back visits to Delhi by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel mark the first high-level political contact between the Obama administration and the newly elected Modi government. Read more…

Rebalancing as the Rorschach inkblot test

US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the joint opening session of the US China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing, China, 9 July 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Brad Glosserman, Pacific Forum CSIS

Since it was first announced in late 2011, the US rebalance to Asia has become the great foreign policy ‘Rorschach test’ — what one sees in the rebalance says more about the observer than it does about the policy itself.

One school sees the rebalance as an effort to realise the goals laid out in President Obama’s 2009 National Security Strategy: it aims to tap the dynamism of the world’s most productive region to revitalise the US economy, sapped by a decade of war. Read more…

The future of US–Japan military exercises

US Navy FA-18 Hornets cram the flight deck of the USS George Washington during a joint military exercise with Japan in the Pacific Ocean, 28 November 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tiago Mauricio, Pacific Forum CSIS

Military exercises play an important role in strengthening America’s extended deterrence in Northeast Asia. Given the transformations in the regional strategic environment, and budgetary constraints for the US and some of its allies, multinational military exercises are particularly alluring for their ability to bolster deterrence on the cheap. Read more…

The flawed US indictment of Chinese hackers

Press material displayed at the Justice Department in Washington before a press conference by US Attorney General Eric Holder to announce charges of economic espionage and trade secret theft against five Chinese military officers. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Claude Barfield, AEI

On 19 May, the US charged five Chinese army officers with hacking into American companies in the first cyber-espionage case of its kind. In defending the administration’s actions, its lead spokesman, Assistant Attorney General John Carlin, adopted an indignant, highly moral tone, alleging that Unit 61398 ‘stole information particularly beneficial to Chinese companies and took communications that would provide competitors with key insight into the strategies and vulnerabilities of the victims…This is not conduct that responsible nations within the global community should tolerate’. Read more…

Can the US tone down to ASEAN’s tune?

President Barack Obama speaks to youth from across the member countries of ASEAN as part of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 27 April 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).

Author: Andrew Chubb, UWA

This month’s Sino–Vietnamese confrontation in the South China Sea, which began when China unilaterally sent a large oil drilling platform to disputed waters 220 kilometres from the Vietnamese coast, raises the question of how to deter unilateral provocations in maritime East Asia.

The US response was swift and public. 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…

Obama visit fails to strengthen US–Japan trust

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at the conclusion of their joint news conference at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo, 24 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Kazuhiko Togo, Kyoto Sangyo University

President Obama’s visit to Japan from April 23-25 was important for US-Japan alliance relations.

But did the visit genuinely strengthen trust between Japan and the United States? A number of outstanding problems indicates that there is room for a great deal of improvement. Read more…

A China–US alliance

US First Lady Michelle Obama greets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, on a visit aimed at boosting diplomatic goodwill, 21 March, 2014. The Obama–Xi meeting in California last June took the intimacy of the relationship to a new height. (Official White House Photo/Amanda Lucidon).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The idea that the United States and China could entertain an alliance relationship might today seem preposterous. It hasn’t always been thus. And the big step by the new leadership in Beijing last year was to elevate the relationship with Washington to a new level of strategic importance, with the Obama–Xi meeting in California last June taking the intimacy of the relationship to a new height. Read more…

Role reversal: how Japan became America’s ally and China fell from grace

President Barack Obama and Emperor Akihito during a banquet in honour of the visiting American leader at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Following WWII, Japan became a US ally, and Japan and China’s positions vis-à-vis the US were reversed (Photo: AAP).

Author: Jean-Pierre Lehmann, IMD

Ask ‘who were the allies in WWII?’ and the answer will likely be: ‘the US, the USSR and Britain’. The fourth ally, China, has been airbrushed from history.

Yet China fought valiantly and suffered hugely. Had the Chinese not kept up the war with Japan in the Pacific, the US would not have been able to concentrate its military efforts on the Atlantic. Read more…

Why Obama should abandon the pivot

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet at the residence of the US ambassador in The Hague on 24 March 2014 on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Hugh White, ANU

President Obama faced a stark choice when he went to Japan last week. Either he had to commit himself and his country unambiguously to supporting Japan militarily over the Senkakus/Diaoyus, or he had to accept that the ‘pivot’ — and by extension his whole foreign policy and US leadership in Asia — was no longer credible. Read more…