We’ve seen this story before: Chinese belligerence driving a neighbor into America’s friendly embrace.
Japan is set to lend significant support to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an extensive U.S.-led free trade deal that would help integrate the economies of Asia and the Americas.
Japan’s Prime Minister Noda is struggling to remain in power as he faces political gridlock, a fiscal cliff, competition from nationalist politicians like Grandpa Ishihara, and conflict with China over the Senkaku Islands. Now he will gamble his remaining political capital to make entrance into the TPP a key part of his party platform. Reuters:
“We will simultaneously pursue the TPP and the free trade agreement between Japan, China and South Korea and this stance will be included in our manifesto,” Noda told reporters over the weekend.
But Noda faces opposition from his ruling party MPs who fear a backlash from Japan’s politically powerful farmers. Japan’s farmers say a flood of cheap agricultural imports will devastate their heavily protected, small-scale operations.
On the one hand, this could be a serious boon for Japanese exporters, who are dealing with a perpetually overvalued Yen and declining demand from China. If Noda can overcome the domestic farm lobby, this deal may provide a path to economic recovery, uniting the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Canada and Japan in a massive free trade bloc encompassing nearly 700 million people.
But more significantly, this is another signal of China’s foreign policy failure. The more aggressive it becomes, the more inclined Japan will be to cozy up to the United States. We’ve seen this happen before, and we’re likely to see it again.