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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 00:19 11/26/2008
News Review #473: November 25, 2008

Japan PM Brushes Off Skepticism Over Free Trade

Reviewed by Takahiro MIYAO

Japan PM Brushes Off Skepticism Over Free Trade
Guardian (11/24/2008)


It has been said that Japan would have a window of opportunity to increase its global presence by advocating free trade in time of economic difficulties which tend to fuel protectionism. That is exactly Prime Minister Taro Aso tried to do at last weekend's APEC meetings in Peru. In particular, Mr. Aso emphasized the importance of the Doha round of trade talks to reach a positive conclusion by the year's end.

When he was asked if he has any concrete proposal to facilitate the Doha round free trade talks at the press conference after the APEC forum, Mr. Aso only responded that he hoped all participating countries would be willing to go along with the principle of free trade for their own sake without mentioning Japan's protectionist measures for agriculture, as reported in Guardian article linked above. The reality is that Japan seems more and more isolated among the countries that are working to propose the conclusion of a Pacific-rim Free Trade Agreement including the US, Peru, Chile, Australia, Singapore, and other Pacific-rim countries. This is because of Japan's reluctance to liberalize some of its agricultural markets, especially with rice and beef, for domestic political reasons.

In fact, Mr. Aso is in no position at home to putting pressure on the agricultural sector for liberalization, as he is struggling to obtain political support from rural areas, where traditional LDP constituencies are rapidly disappearing these days. This is one of the reasons why his words at the APEC press conference sounded so hollow to many participating countries, prompting some of the reporters to write critical reports like the one linked above.

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

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