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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 09:07 05/14/2007
News Review #394: May 11, 2007

Japan Should Consider Free-Trade Pact with U.S., Government Says

Reviewed by Takahiro MIYAO

Japan Should Consider Free-Trade Pact with U.S., Government Says
International Herald Tribune (5/10/2007)

Keikichi Honda "Toward an Economic Partnership Agreement for Japan and the U.S."
Global Communications Platform (9/19/2006)


It is reported in International Herald Tribune (see the link above) that the Japanese government's spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki, said Japan should consider signing a free trade agreement with the U.S. Other public figures, including former Economics Minister Heizo Takenaka, are also reportedly suggesting a similar arrangement between the two countries. Although this kind of idea has been floating around for some time, there is no doubt that these statements are a result of the recent signing of a free trade agreement between South Korea and the U.S.

As is often mentioned, however, one major obstacle is agriculture. While the U.S. would demand that the Japanese agricultural sector should be opened up or at least more open than it is now, Japan's agricultural interest group, including many of the ruling party members, would certainly resist such demand by claiming that Japan's food self-sufficiency ratio is already lower than most of the Western countries. The problem here is the fact that there is no political leadership in coordinating different positions taken by different ministries, say, the Ministry of Agriculture vs. the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and this is the main reason why Japan has been falling behind South Korea and China regarding free trade agreements.

One other problem is institutional barriers for human interaction and mobility in Japanese society. Especially the issue of allowing foreign professionals such as doctors, lawyers and various consultants to practice in Japan might well become a major obstacle to conclusion of an Economic Partnership Agreement between Japan and the U.S., or other advanced countries, as suggested in the Honda article (see the reference above).

It is clear that political leadership is needed to overcome these difficult issues in Japan before any serious discussion starts regarding a free trade agreement between the two countries.

This review is adopted from the following blog (with its Japanese translation):

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