(Nikkei: March 10, 2015 – p. 2)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is visiting Japan for the first time in seven years and held talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Germany will chair the Group of Seven (G-7) summit to be held in Germany in June, and Japan will chair the summit in the following year. As future G-7 chairs, the two leaders agreed to deepen bilateral cooperation regarding the issues of Ukraine and the Middle East. In view of recent developments in the international order, further enhancement of the bilateral cooperation is needed.
Regional conflicts are casting a shadow over the global economy, and the international order is becoming unstable. The framework of the G-7, which seeks cooperation in macro-economic policies and solutions to conflicts, has not been able to play a sufficient role as the United States has turned inward on account of the financial crisis. The Group of Twenty (G-20) that was expected to act as a substitute for G-7 has not been able to function as expected either.
Although both Japan and Germany are expected to play leading roles in stabilizing the world order, they have not been able to exert their influence enough. Although Germany has increased its presence with its economic power, it has failed to become a mediator in solving the issue of Greece’s debt and finding measures to avert deflation in Europe. Instead the nation has been adopting an attitude of placing priority on national interests. Japan has its hands full with its own economic reconstruction and is far from exercising leadership internationally.
However, if the two countries deepen their bilateral cooperation on politics and economy, it will become increasingly possible for them to play leading roles. The two leaders also agreed to deepen on bilateral cooperation on the Ukraine issue, which is still at an impasse even after the ceasefire agreement was reached.
Chancellor Merkel has met frequently with Russian President Putin, and Prime Minister Abe maintains a comparatively good relationship with him. In order to make their connections more effective, both Merkel and Abe should maintain close contact with President Putin in order to urge him to pursue peace.
Despite differences between Japan and Germany in diplomatic strategy and economic relationships, it is important to narrow the distance between the two countries. While negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) led by the U.S. and Japan are in the final stage, those on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU are proceeding slowly. Expectations are high for Germany, as the region’s largest economic power, to act as a driving force to push the agreement forward.
As for foreign policy toward China, Japan has serious security concerns as it is confronted by maritime advancement by the Chinese military. Since Germany is situated far away from China, it has no such pressing security concerns and tends to focus on the massive market China offers. Chancellor Merkel has been visiting China almost every year.
Such differences between Japan and Germany over China are understandable to a certain degree; however, the two countries should be able to agree that China needs to become a responsible world power. As a result of this summit, we hope that Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Abe will develop a relationship in which they can talk about policy toward China without reserve.