Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The LDP-Komeito Coalition Government Policy Agreement

Find the LDP-Komeito Coalition Government Policy Agreement here, if you can read Japanese and are prepared to be mostly unsurprised. It reaffirms the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s supremacy on reactivating reactors and passes on constitutional amendment for further discussion. IT adopts the LDP’s 2% inflation target and 3% or more nominal GDP growth rate—1% real growth; that’s a pretty modest figure, but not out of line with typical per capita, developed country expectations, I assume.

Two things come across as notable. First, there’s no reference to a government-BOJ policy accord. I doubt that this means anything, but it was one of Abe’s headline campaign promises. Second is the following (my translation):

“Seek to reinforce the Japan-US alliance, reconstruct the relationship between the two countries, and seek to increase trust with neighboring countries such as China, South Korea, and Russia.”

The only other “neighboring countr[y]” that I can think of is North Korea—Taiwan is not a “country” in officialspeak. But that’s not my point. South Korea was supposed to be one cornerstone of then Foreign Minister Aso’s “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity” * and it is being mentioned in the same breath as China and Russia. It’s not about the overall relationship; things are not bad between Japan and Russia. The common thread seems to be the territorial disputes.

More generally with regard to “Diplomacy and Security”, there’s no fancy talk about global leadership, international contribution and the like. It’s focused on the national interest in the narrow sense. And speaking of national interest, it says:

“…with regard to TPP, we shall seek the best path that is in accord with the national interest.”

Noncommittal, but the non-commitment is certainly phrased in a way that is less negative than the LDP’s corresponding headline campaign “promise”:

“We shall oppose participations in the TPP negotiations as long as ‘elimination of tariffs without sanctuaries’ is the premise.”

I’m more convinced than ever that Prime Minister Abe will come back with an agreement with President Obama on this. The trick will be to find wording that minimizes noise from LDP dissenters while enabling Obama to put the question to Congress without the political costs outweighing the benefits.

* I misremembered this, and I’m beginning to see why.

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