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Editorial: Spread of Trump-style politics is eroding multilateral cooperation

  • September 26, 2019
  • , The Japan News , 7:32 p.m.
  • English Press

International cooperation is crucial for coordinating the interests of each country and maintaining a stable world order. It is important to continue advocating the significance of this approach and prevent the spread of excessive “country first” policies.


In a speech at the United Nations, U.S. President Donald Trump declared: “The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots.” Trump also said, “Wise leaders always put the good of their own people and their own country first.”


Of course, every country’s leader gives priority to the interests of one’s own nation. However, terrorism, climate change, poverty and other issues that transcend national boundaries cannot be resolved if each country acts alone. It is obvious that pursuing only the gains of one’s own country will cause conflicts to spread and also harm wider economic interests.


The United States led the creation of the United Nations, which was spurred by reflection on two world wars. The United Nations’ basic principle is that every nation must work together to protect global peace and security. It is unfortunate that the leader of a major country that stood at the forefront of this initiative is clinging to a self-centered approach.


During his speech, Trump suggested that each nation’s independence and sovereignty should be prized above international frameworks. China and Russia use the same argument to reject interference in their affairs by the international community. This line of thinking could result in more heavy-handed politics and human rights violations going unaddressed.


Trump’s style of politics is already starting to spread. Leaders of Hungary, Turkey, Brazil and other nations have gained support by claiming internationalism is an idea orchestrated by the elite that disregards national interests. The elements of populism are plain to see.


Japan must do more


It is certainly true that unilateralism’s rise has come against a backdrop of many multilateral frameworks struggling to function effectively.


The World Trade Organization, which deals with disputes over tariffs and other trade issues, has not been able to rectify China’s rule-breaking trade practices. This system needs to be overhauled and made more effective.


Resource-poor Japan has reaped the benefits of free trade based on international cooperation. During his speech at the United Nations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “Japan will make use of multilateral frameworks and globalism, to reduce disparities.”


This year, Japan chaired the Group of 20 summit meeting and raised the issues of WTO reform and drawing up international rules for the digital society. At this year’s Tokyo International Conference on African Development, Japan supported efforts to boost investment and trade.


Be that as it may, however, this drive falls short as a message intended to admonish excessive unilateralism.


The role required of the prime minister at this time is to have a sense of urgency over the current situation in which the international order is being shaken and widely trumpet the importance of resuming multilateral cooperation.

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