Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Japan feels the heat

Based on the coverage in Japan's newspapers, it seems that Japan was blindsided by the US-ROK free-trade agreement. Perhaps Japanese observers did not quite believe that negotiators would be able conclude an agreement before time ran out. Of course, the agreement's passage in both the US and South Korean legislatures is hardly a foregone conclusion, as the Japanese media has noted, but the prospect of Korean companies -- especially automakers -- having preferential access to the US market seems to have stirred the Japanese government to action.

The FT reports today that Japan has announced that it is interested in ramping up talks with South Korea on a Japan-South Korea FTA, and quotes Abe has saying that even an FTA with the US should be considered. The FT also notes, however, that Korea is more interested in trade negotiations with the EU than with Japan.

Perhaps another sign of the deficiencies of the Japanese government's foreign policy making; Tokyo seems utterly incapable of shaping the regional environment, and is continually being outflanked by its neighbors, allies, and rivals, whether on trade, security, or in the six-party talks.

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