Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to visit Europe in May (link). What should he be getting out of this trip?
- The idea is to strengthen relations with the European Union , sign a few free trade agreements and finalize the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement. Considering Japan’s desire for a more strategic relationship with Europe, why not go a bit further? PM Abe has talked about making some changes in policies that will lead to Japan becoming even more proactive in global peacekeeping efforts, and so far there is little to show for it. UN Peacekeeping is one option, but why not kill two birds with one stone (peacekeeping and Euro-Japan concord) and agree to pursue a Framework Partnership Agreement with the EU that would allow Japanese civilians and members of the Self Defence Forces to participate in EU crisis management missions and operations? Korea is on track to do so, then why not Japan? Approximately two thirds of CSDP efforts are civilian missions, so well within the ‘human security’ paradigm MOFA has supported through the UN. Also, following the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan (an alliance apparently in no hurry to do anything similar again), the EU is still launching missions left, right and centre, and may offer more opportunities for Japan to bond with a European security platform.
- To gain international support in light of territorial disputes with China and South Korea and deflect critical remarks from both countries over historical issues, Japan has to start thinking outside the box. This visit is an opportunity to change the narrative from Yasukuni and sex slaves onto something more positive. Abe could counter China’s propaganda offensive by organizing an event in the UK to showcase post-WWII reconciliation between Japan and Great Britain. What if Abe and Cameron together attend a screening of the recent movie based on the true life story of Anglo-Japan reconciliation “The Railway Man”? Abe can give a speech about how Britain and Japan managed to squarely face up to the tragedies of that war and become, united by common values, allies once again. This would have two advantages: (1) refute the image of Abe as being in denial about Japan’s past; and (2) showcase an example of how Japan has managed to rebuild its international relations with an important ally.
- Abe is also planning to meet with French President Hollande. This will be interesting because Japan and France have been working hard on their relationship, which is elevated to a 2+2 meeting with a roadmap for security cooperation. This offers a chance to get an indication of which basket (UK, France, EU, V4, NATO) Japan is putting most of its eggs, or if it will continue to distribute them rather evenly across this set.
- Abe is set to participate in the Ministerial Council Meeting of the OECD in Paris on May 6 – 7. Events in Ukraine will probably set the atmosphere for this. Russia will be out of the G8. It is a shame for Abe, who wanted to settle the northern islands dispute with Russia and secure an alternative source of hydrocarbon energy supplies from Russia. However, Vladimir Putin has gone too far in Ukraine. Abe has to take a stand on this because (1) that is the essence of his narrative about values (rule of law, democracy, free speech, free market); and because (2) Japan has to back up the present world order in case China starts to feel the rules have changed. OECD is about economies, so maybe hopefully there will be more to talk about than handling the fallout from sanctioning Russia.
3 responses to “Abe visits Europe, May 2014 – some suggestions”
I think maybe he will also talk about what standards we should be using into the future for our currency exchanges. I think the dollar is falling out of favor in world trading and a common exchange might be in the works between the Pacific and Europe. This is a discussion Japan would have without involving the US and for good reasons.
Hi Philip. My suggestion is PM Abe should try to mix some pleasure with business, This is so hard for J politicians or business people, but really lead by example, and he should not apologise for taking time off work, but rather suggest this is a good thing, for everyone, to take a break, switch gears, relax, help yourself, help the local economy, also maybe find and enjoy some spice of life?
For example, maybe the PM and his wife and key aids, handlers could even very publicly, or very privately, take some down time off the record at some resort? Or of course shopping, contribute to the local various economies with interesting “outlet” factory or store visits? Why doesn’t the EU or various host country teams suggest some short, medium, longer options like this to the PM handlers now, as a win-win for all… and it might actually get in the program?
Or some education or school related visit and promotion? PM Abe could do a lot more than we may think if he gets some good advice with a bit of lead time and specific ideas, places, options on the table.
Are you or is anyone out there in a position to suggest or help make this type of thing happen?
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