By Nagata Takehiko
The joint statement released after the inaugural economic 2+2 included cooperation in energy security, but it is hard to conclude that Japan and the U.S. had in-depth discussions on the matter. They agreed to the importance of energy security that has come into the international spotlight following the Ukraine crisis, but they emphasize different agendas. The task of giving concrete shape to energy security cooperation will likely be addressed in the next round of talks.
While Japan and the U.S. agreed to the joint development of next-generation semiconductors and the strengthening of supply chains of critical materials, discussions in the energy sector did not deepen. Apart from the economic 2+2, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hagiuda Koichi met separately with Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, but could not have a meeting with Secretary of Energy Jennifer Mulhern Granholm.
Hagiuda explained that he discussed [Japan’s position] in the energy sector at the 2+2 meeting, but he also noted that “I’ve explained [Japan’s position] to Secretary Granholm and other G7 ministers in charge of energy issues before.” The remarks suggest there were no new discussions in the 2+2.
This is because energy issues that Japan and the U.S. need to address are different.
For the U.S., a price cap on Russian oil and the stable procurement of crude oil, which would help stabilize gasoline prices at home, will remain the top priority for the time being, as these can lead to strengthening economic sanctions against Russia.
On the other hand, Japan’s biggest concern is to prepare itself for supply disruptions of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the “Saklhalin-2” oil and natural gas development project in Russia. Since these would lead to electricity supply crunches and inflation, Japan is calling on the U.S., a gas producing nation, to increase output.
Because of this, Japan and the U.S. included in the joint statement the need for decarbonization in the medium-to-long term, an uncontroversial subject, and only stipulated: “The Ministers affirmed the need to address the climate crisis in the face of complications due to energy insecurity.”
Nonetheless, there are many areas in energy security where Japan and the U.S. can strengthen their cooperation. They will probably be required to use this new economic 2+2 framework and take more concrete action to build a stronger partnership in the energy sector. (Abridged)