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2013年3月29日 (金)

経済連携交渉 日本主導で自由貿易圏加速を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 29, 2013)
Japan should take upper hand in FTA negotiations
経済連携交渉 日本主導で自由貿易圏加速を(3月28日付・読売社説)

Prompted by Japan's recent announcement it would join the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, various large-scale, free trade agreement initiatives have begun materializing one after another.

On Tuesday, the inaugural round of negotiations on a trilateral FTA between Japan, China and South Korea kicked off in Seoul.

Tokyo has also agreed with the European Union to begin talks in April on an economic partnership agreement. In May, negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will begin, with countries including Japan, China, South Korea and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations expected to join the talks.

We can say the trend of nations and regions vying to create FTA frameworks beneficial to themselves has accelerated.

As Japan is scheduled to participate in multiple FTA negotiations, there is an opportunity for the nation to proactively engage in establishing regional trade rules. The government must devote itself to realizing these FTAs at the earliest opportunity, paving the way for boosting Japan's economic growth.

Regarding FTA talks, it is clear that Japan is lagging behind South Korea, which has already concluded FTAs with the United States and the EU. It has been a considerable time since Japan presented FTA proposals to its Asian neighbors and the EU, but talks on these have been slow to materialize.


Japan rallying from behind

However, the EU, China and South Korea have recently begun making favorable comments regarding negotiations with Japan, following Tokyo's move to join TPP talks.

It appears the EU intends to counter the influence of the TPP with an EU-Japan FTA. The EU has also agreed with the United States to begin FTA negotiations, with talks expected to start soon. It is obvious that the EU is concerned about the possibility of being left behind in the global trend.

We assume Beijing has a similar goal. The problem of the Senkaku Islands persists between Japan and China, but it seems China is trying to counter the United States' deepening influence in Asia by engaging in talks with Japan and South Korea.

Japan's challenge is clear--whether it can take the initiative in setting up trade rules.

Points of contention in Japan-EU talks will be eliminating the EU's high tariffs on automobiles and other products, as well as Japan's market deregulation in fields such as cars and medical equipment. Reaching an agreement quickly presents Japan and the EU with many hurdles to overcome.

The outlook of negotiations between Japan, China and South Korea is also unclear, as issues such as intellectual property rights and competition policies are expected to be discussed at the talks.


Need to be a tough negotiator

Regarding TPP talks, countries are expected to employ various tactics on whether to exempt agricultural products, such as rice, from tariff elimination.

A major premise for Japan in joining the TPP talks is to seek to create a new free trade framework that will enhance the level of the market openness of the region.

Meanwhile, by simultaneously undertaking other FTA negotiations, Japan will be able to put pressure on the United States, the EU and China. The government must use its bargaining power to pursue the interests of the nation in the negotiations. It is also important to keep in mind the necessity of inducing China to comply with international trade rules.

As Japan--one of the world's major exporters--has recorded trade deficits in recent years, it is urgent to get the nation back on its feet. Japan's announcement to join the TPP talks had a far-reaching impact on the world. To exploit this opportunity, Japan must prepare a sharp strategy for the negotiations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 28, 2013)
(2013年3月28日01時13分  読売新聞)


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