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from Ian Bremmer:

Japan’s path forward, in five steps

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On the surface, Barack Obama’s recent Japan visit struck all the right chords for Tokyo. For the first time ever, an American president stated that the U.S.-Japan security treaty extends to the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands dispute, the most combustible geopolitical conflict between Japan and China. And Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a “key milestone” for negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the trade deal that encompasses 12 countries and more than 40 percent of the world’s economic output.

But there was less to the visit than meets the eye. Obama’s Senkaku pledge was a restatement of existing U.S. policy. The “key milestone” on TPP was never identified; in fact, it seems that the 40 hours of bilateral discussions between the U.S. and Japan led to no breakthrough at all. And while the trip was a big win for Obama -- he managed to placate Tokyo without provoking Beijing -- it didn’t offer any solutions for how Japan should deal with a rising China.

With the United States disengaging on foreign policy and China rapidly expanding its influence, Japan is caught in a dire geopolitical position. But Tokyo still has options. Here are five foreign policy priorities for Japan.

1. Stay the course on Abenomics.

Japan’s first priority must be to follow through on the prime minister’s economic plan. Despite Tokyo’s recent fixation on security issues, it has maintained economic momentum -- and must continue to do so.

from The Great Debate:

Obama: Going ‘all in’ for the Asian Century

The reaction in Asia to the dominance of U.S. power is only surpassed by a fear that the United States is in retreat.

As President Barack Obama traveled to Asia Tuesday for a four-country trip, this fear should be foremost on his mind. What many of Asia’s political and cultural leaders  fear most, however, is the United States retreating inward while distracted by crisis after crisis -- from Libya to Syria to Crimea. With China on the brink of becoming the world’s largest economy and the geopolitical puzzle pieces of the China seas seemingly in renegotiation, the Eastern world is asking where Washington stands. This is Obama’s moment to demonstrate the components of his much-heralded, but still largely  undefined, tilt to Asia.

from The Great Debate:

Obama: Building trade to build growth

The Obama administration has quietly embraced the most ambitious agenda on trade and investment liberalization in the past two decades.

The United States is currently juggling no fewer than five high-level trade negotiations: free trade talks with the European Union; the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks with a dozen Asia-Pacific countries; a new Information Technology Agreement covering trade in high-tech goods; negotiations on liberalizing services trade though the World Trade Organization, and a last-ditch effort this week to agree on new trade facilitation measures at the WTO ministerial meeting in Bali.

from The Great Debate:

A shifting global economy brings Australia to a crossroads

Australia is no longer immune to the stagnation in the West. Despite a resilient housing market, Australia’s economy is slowing. With a worsening labor market, consumption is eroding, along with business confidence.

In the past two years, the benchmark interest rate has been almost halved to 2.5 percent. Still, Australia’s real GDP growth is likely to decrease to 2.4 percent during the ongoing year and will remain barely 2 percent until the mid-2010s.

from Breakingviews:

New-age trade clubs: A guide for the perplexed

By Andy Mukherjee

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

Global trade is going private. After a frustrating 12-year-long wait for the World Trade Organization to hammer out an accord acceptable to its 159 members, businesses and governments are now hedging their bets. Enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which received a boost this week with Japan joining the negotiations.

from Global Investing:

Russia’s starting blocs – the EEU

The course is more than 20 million square kilometers, and covers 15 percent of the world's land surface. It's not a new event in next month's IAAF World Championships in Moscow but a long-term project to better integrate emerging Eurasian economies.

The eventual aim of a new economic union for post-Soviet states, known as the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), is to "substitute previously existing ones," according to Tatiana Valovaya, Russia's minister in charge of development of integration and macroeconomics, at a media briefing in London last week.

from The Great Debate:

The most important trade deal you’ve never heard of

By David Gordon and Sean West The views expressed are their own. 

With Europe at the fore, it seems hard to justify paying attention to a congressional hearing about a trade deal nobody’s ever heard of.  But the most important trade agreement in a generation—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the subject of a House Ways and Means Committee hearing yesterday—is quietly advancing.  The pact, a free-trade deal including the US and several other Pacific Rim nations, will profoundly affect economic and security relations between the US and Asia.  And it may ultimately reshape global economics.

Negotiations are only starting, and with Japan just joining the talks they could go on for years.  The true significance of TPP lies in what it promises: a new type of broad alliance for a world where trade and investment issues are no longer separate, and together underpin a new geopolitical reality.  It’s the first of what could be many “coalitions of the willing” to unlock economic and financial efficiency.  And if works, it will act as a magnet to pull many more countries into its fold.

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