EU & Japan: The Only Viable Alternative to US Hegemony
John de Boer (University of Tokyo & GLOCOM Platform)
The 11th EU-Japan Summit was held on July 8 in Tokyo. After the Summit a joint press statement was issued by Junichiro Koizumi, the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denmark in his capacity as President of the European Council and Mr. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission. While the statement reconfirmed the intensification of dialogue and cooperation between Japan and the EU on matters such as trade, development, counter terrorism and cultural and academic exchanges it also brought to light a number of issues regarding which the two sides have decided to intensify cooperation in order to counter US unilateralism.
This in no way suggests that the EU-Japan relationship is entirely reactionary or that it is directed by US policies. Rather it points to the fact that many in Japan and in the EU consider their joint cooperation as the only viable alternative to an imposition of US hegemonic interests on certain issues of global concern. The press statement of July 8 clearly outlined what these issues were. Namely, differences in perspectives relating to the Middle East peace process, greenhouse gas reductions, and US steel tariffs. In their Summit, Japan and the EU reconfirmed their common approach to resolving these three problems despite (perhaps even because) of US objections.
In relation to the Middle East Peace Process and contrary to President Bush's recently outlined peace plan, Japan and the EU reaffirmed their commitment to the implementation of relevant UN resolutions and international law that require Israel to retreat to pre-June 1967 borders and end its occupation of Palestinian Territories. While President Bush did not make one reference to the Madrid peace conference or the Oslo Accords both Japan and the EU stressed the importance of the Madrid Formula "Land for Peace" in order to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Finally, and most strikingly the press statement emphasized the need for Israel and the PA to enter into negotiations aimed at finding a "political solution" to the conflict without delay. In contrast, President Bush only mentioned a political solution as a future possibility under the condition that the Palestinian Authority transformed itself into a shining democracy that was equal in nature to Sweden. A task, that in practical terms is impossible to achieve. The difference between the EU and the US regarding their approach to peace in the Middle East has been an issue often talked about. However, now that Japan has decided to stand with the EU it is believed that it will not be so easy for the US to act unilaterally in the region.
Secondly, in relation to controlling greenhouse gas emissions, on July 8 Japan and the EU reaffirmed their commitment to implement aggressive limits on carbon dioxide emissions and called upon all countries to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. In doing so they placed themselves at complete odds with the United States. As has been highlighted in a recent AP article on the matter, the parties seem to be heading for a confrontation at the upcoming global conference on the environment to be held from Aug. 26-Sept. 4 in Johannesburg, South Africa. If Japan and the EU do as they say the US will not have an easy time convincing others against ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Sooner or later the US could find itself completely isolated in this regard.
Finally, in relation to US imposed steel tariffs Japan and the EU have decided to pressure the United States to drop the tariffs or grant exceptions. After their meeting, PM Koizumi and EU representatives agreed to push back the deadline for retaliating against US tariffs until August. However, if the US does not act to resolve the situation by that time, the EU and Japan will launch joint action against the US with the potential of causing considerable economic and political damage to the United States.
It is now clear that on these three issues Japan and the EU have decided that acting in unison is the only possible way to influence the US. Living with a global hegemon is not easy, however, further Japanese and EU cooperation could serve to control the increasing tendency of the US to ignore international public opinion and go on it alone. Although, as was stated at the outset, this is not the motivating factor behind all EU-Japan joint initiatives it certainly is a consideration in relation to matters of global and national interests such as peace in the Middle East, environmental sustainability and trade. It is hoped that such collaboration will prove to be positive and help to create a more stable and consensus driven world.