Japan is having difficulty dealing with the U.S. and China as the two governments engage in trade talks. While Japan is looking at ways to cooperate with the U.S. in responding to such issues as China’s violation of intellectual property rights, the U.S. has maintained a tough stance toward Japan in such matters as the import restrictions on steel products. Although Japan intends to cooperate with the U.S. in dealing with China’s unfair trade practices, collaboration between the two countries may be compromised depending on the Trump administration’s next steps.
At his summit meeting with President Donald Trump in April, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on the President for “Japan-U.S. leadership in creating a free and fair market in the Indo-Pacific.”
What Abe had in mind was countermeasures against China’s unfair trade. The two countries are in agreement on demanding measures to deal with the proliferation of counterfeit products and other forms of violation of intellectual property rights, subsidies and preferential treatment for state-owned enterprises, and other policies that distort the competition environment.
However, Trump imposed import restrictions on steel and other products in March. In response to this, Japan informed the WTO on May 18 that it was preparing countermeasures. Although whether these measures will actually be invoked is still to be decided, there is no doubt that Japan is agonizing over how to deal with Trump’s tough policies on Japan.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has filed a case with the WTO against China for violation of intellectual property rights. The U.S. is seeking cooperation with Japan on the issue of China’s forcible demand for technology transfer.
However, a senior official of a Japanese economic ministry remarked that “it might be difficult to work together on the intellectual property issue unless Japan is given consideration on the import restrictions issue.”
The Japan, U.S., and EU trade ministers’ meeting in Belgium last March was supposed to focus on cooperation in dealing with China’s overproduction of steel and violation of intellectual property rights.
Yet a substantial part of the discussion had to be devoted to the U.S.’s import restrictions. Trump’s tough diplomatic stance is also casting a dark shadow on efforts by Japan, the U.S., and the EU to “encircle China.”