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Editorial: Mutual benefits should be achieved through economic dialogue

A new framework for Japan-U.S. economic relations should be established from the perspective of mutual benefits.


Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso met with visiting U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Tokyo for the first round of the Japan-U.S. Economic Dialogue. They approved the establishment of “three pillars of activity” upon which they will pursue dialogue: trade and investment strategy; cooperation in economic and structural policies; and sectoral cooperation.


At a press conference after the meeting, Aso said the dialogue opened up a “new page” in economic relations between the two countries. “The economic relations between Japan and the United States started with friction, but they are shifting to cooperation now,” he said.


It can be said that Aso was expressing the view that Japan and the U.S. should take the initiative in expanding free and fair trade rules in the Asia Pacific region in light of the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.


He may also have sought to avoid getting pulled into bilateral negotiations in which the U.S. will ask Japan to open its the market beyond the TPP level.


Pence clearly said that the TPP is “a thing of the past.” He also told a news conference following Tuesday’s talks, “Today we are beginning a process of economic dialogue, the end of which may result in bilateral trade negotiations in the future.” His remarks made it clear that the U.S. is poised to pursue its own interests by shifting its focus to bilateral negotiations with a free trade agreement in mind.


What is important is that both countries put their differences aside and engage in constructive discussions in the sectoral dialogues that will begin in earnest.


Japan-U.S. trade underwent a great change in the era when the U.S.’s trade deficit with Japan was substantial. Japanese investment in the U.S. is generating many jobs there. The protectionist approach of President Donald Trump is out of touch with reality


Japan and the U.S. need to find solutions that lead to mutual benefits without unnecessarily emphasizing the trade imbalance.


Prior to the economic dialogue, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Pence and confirmed that the two nations need to apply further pressure on North Korea, which continues to develop nuclear and missile technologies. Abe and Pence also agreed to urge China to play a role in this issue.


 “We seek peace always as a country, as does Japan,” Pence said. “But as you know, peace comes through strength.”


Pressure on North Korea should be strategically increased both diplomatically and militarily.


Showing no hesitation in taking harsh punitive actions is imperative for deterring North’s nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches. At the same time, making maximum use of China is crucial as the world’s second biggest economy has a strong influence over North Korea and can restrict crude oil supply, trade, and financial transactions.


China has consistently wanted to maintain the status quo on the Korean Peninsula and has avoided taking forceful actions for a long time. This soft approach has led to its tacit approval of North Korea’s efforts to improve its nuclear and missile technologies.


The U.S. needs to demonstrate clearly that it is serious about resolving the North Korean nuclear issue in order to urge China to change its policy. Japan and South Korea also need to fall into step and back up the U.S.’s efforts.

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