LDP urged to confirm TPP participation, economic strategy

JIJI

The Liberal Democratic Party should declare its intention of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks “as soon as possible,” while also unveiling its long-term strategy for economic growth, according to Michael Green of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Economic restructuring is one of the most pressing tasks for the new LDP-led government that is expected to be unveiled this week, presumably headed by LDP President Shinzo Abe, Green, Japan chair at the Washington-based think tank, said Thursday in an interview.

Concluding additional free-trade agreements, for instance a mooted trilateral trade accord with China and South Korea, is one of the best ways to promote structural change, he argued.

“Japan’s negotiating position will be very weak in those (trade discussions) unless Japan is also participating in the TPP,” Green pointed out.

But he also called on the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to do more to encourage Japan to become party to the ongoing TPP negotiations, so it can participate in working out a framework for the multilateral trade initiative.

In addition, Green said it is “necessary” for the new administration of Abe, who is almost certain to be elected prime minister in a Diet vote this week, to address chronic deflation by setting an inflation target of 2 percent.

Green, a former senior director for Asian affairs at Washington’s National Security Council, meanwhile voiced hopes that the LDP will succeed in forming a more stable and long-term government than the Democratic Party of Japan. The electorate ejected the DPJ from office in the Dec. 16 Lower House poll after a three-year term that saw a revolving door of prime ministers.

The biggest threat to the U.S.-Japan security alliance and broader bilateral cooperation right now would be if these frequent leadership changes in Tokyo were to continue, and if power were to keep switching back and forth among various parties, Green stressed.

On the LDP’s campaign pledge to amend the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution and re-brand the Self-Defense Forces as the more militaristic sounding National Defense Force, Green said, “I think most countries trust Japan.

“I’m confident that if Japan revises Article 9, it will be a transparent and democratic process that will be welcomed by the vast majority of countries in the world — except China,” he observed.

But revising Article 9 is still “a very high mountain to climb,” Green noted.

“There are other mountains that are smaller . . . hills that are very important for making the U.S.-Japan security alliance and Japan’s defense policy more effective,” Green said.

Abe’s promise to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense by revising the government’s interpretation of the pacifist Constitution is one such issue, Green said.

A constitutional review is “a hill I think the Abe administration can climb in less than one year,” he said.