Japanese Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko indicated last November that he would like Japan to take part in negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, yet he has not officially announced his country’s participation. Instead, he has repeatedly postponed making a final decision, as he is too preoccupied with domestic politics.
But the deadline for Japan’s involvement looms as he indecisively runs in circles. The Obama administration, leader of the negotiations, may not be able to cope with the addition of Japan while it deals with the upcoming presidential campaign.
As such, the Prime Minister must announce participation in the negotiations as soon as possible. Japan’s national security situation is shaky as territorial disputes with China and Korea intensify over the Senkakus and Takeshima.. The Japan-U.S. alliance must also be strengthened economically through the framework of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Starting next week the presidential race in the U.S. will quickly intensify, with the Republicans opening their national convention on Aug. 27 and the Democrats opening theirs on Sept. 3. After this period the Obama administration’s negotiating position in relation to Congress and the business community will only decrease.
The politically powerful U.S. automotive industry is opposed to Japan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the election is forecast to be a tight race. Thus we don’t expect President Obama’s Democratic Party to have the strength to pacify the automotive industry’s opposition.
If Japan waits until after the November elections to announce its official intention to take part in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, actual participation in the negotiations may have to wait until after the spring of next year at the earliest. This is because it will take the new administration and Congress at least three months to settle on a policy, and on top of that they will need to consult with the government of Japan.
During this time countries already participating, including recently joined Canada and Mexico, will proceed with negotiations, mapping out the trade framework of the Asia-Pacific region — without Japan.
The Obama administration, although mindful of the automotive industry, is strongly in favor of Japan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership because the U.S. is concerned about Beijing’s political influence on its trade and investment partners.
With globalization and increased mutual interdependence, a country cannot strengthen its national security by military means alone. Beijing pursues a self-serving trade strategy; thus a regional market must be established that subjects China to standard international rules and protects fair trade.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the best way to do so. Prime Minister Noda and the Democratic Party of Japan must make a definitive decision soon, keeping in mind both a global and domestic perspective.