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No.56

Japan-US Trade Agreement is a “First-Stage” Deal

  While this agreement can be assessed as “a deal where both sides gained benefits,” Japan has already used up the beef and pork card, which means that the “second stage” of the negotiations would likely be more severe.   The Japan-US trade negotiations that started in April 2019 reached an agreement at the Japan-US summit on September 25 and the Japanese and US governments signed the Japan-US Trade Agreement and the Japan-US Digital Trade Agreement on October 7. Because the agreements needed no approval from the Congress of the United States, they went into force on January 1, 2020, after they were approved at the 200th Extraordinary Session of the Diet underway in Japan. Because no new legislative or budgetary measures were needed for the implementation of the agreements in Japan, there are no related bills. The Japan-US Digital Trade Agreement is “TPP-plus” ... ... [Read more]

No.55

Issues Concerning Social Security for All Generations: A System for Contribution According to Individual Income Levels

Key points: The government outlook is premised on growth, with some uncertainty. Distinguish between risk dispersion and redistribution functions Intensively direct public funds to those in desperate need The consumption tax rate has been raised to 10%, marking the end of the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems that started in the mid-2000s. But we face the 2025 problem of the baby boomers reaching the age of 75 and social security reform is now entering a crucial stage. As poverty grows amid slower economic growth and depopulation and population aging begin deepening in earnest, politicians are now expected to reconstruct sustainable social security; that is, to carry out sweeping reforms to facilitate the balance between social security benefits and contributions. The starting point for the fiscal reform debates is the May 2018 paper, “The Projections for the Future of Social Security with ... ... [Read more]

No.55

Japan-US Trade Negotiations on Promise of Trade Liberalization: Results in Better Than Equal Terms

Key points: Virtually sealed off the imposition of additional tariffs on automobiles Digital trade rules to be applied to the Japan-US Trade Agreement in advance Persuade the US to return to the TPP On October 7, the Japan and the US governments signed the Trade Agreement between Japan and the United States of America (Japan-US Trade Agreement) and the Agreement between Japan and the United States of America concerning Digital Trade (Japan-US Digital Trade Agreement). One year since the agreement on the start of negotiations in the Japan-US joint statement announced on September 26, 2018, and half a year since the start of substantive negotiations in April 2019, they have concluded the following. In the Japan-US Trade Agreement, Japan responded to the US demand for the liberalization of agricultural products, including beef, while negotiations will continue on the US’ elimination of tariffs on automobiles ... ... [Read more]

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No.51

Can Japanese Diplomacy Talk about Universality?—Rebuilding public diplomacy strategy

Amidst the flux of the liberal international order, Japan’s public diplomacy, which relies solely on its cultural uniqueness, is inadequate. The author proposes new principles for an age where the diplomatic sphere is expanding from negotiation tactics to agenda setting and norm setting. In the fall of 2017 when there was a succession of major events—the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and US President Donald Trump’s visit to China—I visited Peking University and had an opportunity to exchange opinions with many experts and specialists. What impressed me in particular was that the Chinese side emphasized the negative aspect of democracy and used it in justification of the Communist Party’s monopoly on power. The Chinese experts and specialists said the following: Democracy could just consider short-term profits like companies operating under a capitalist system. The only interest of politicians and political ... ... [Read more]

No.51

Thirty years of clambering up and slipping back down— A comprehensive look back at the Heisei period

  What kind of period was Heisei (1989–2019) Kitaoka Shinichi: My image of the Heisei period is of a crab at the bottom of a washbowl trying to climb up but then slipping and falling right back down. Heisei began with the bubble bursting in 1991 (Heisei 3) and Japan tried to respond to it in various ways. Although there was political reform and administrative reform, the Asian currency crisis came in ’97, before these trials showed any effect, and it looked like it was all over for Japan. But in 2001, Koizumi Junichiro appeared as Prime Minister, promised to “destroy the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP),” and became hugely popular. Yet the LDP wasn’t particularly destroyed, and it’s hard to say that anything has moved forward. Then in 2008 there was the global financial crisis, and in 2011 the Great East Japan Earthquake and ... ... [Read more]

No.51

The True Home of Japan Studies Is Not Japan: Academic rivals are skilled at reading cursive script and transliterating classical Chinese into Japanese

  Who really “owns” Japan studies? In the list of academic fields eligible for Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, no such field as “Japan Studies” exists. If one searches the list for the keyword “regional studies,” there is “East Asia,” “South East Asia,” “South Asia,” “West and Central Asia,” etc., but there is no “Japan.” Although there are research and education organizations with Japan studies in their title (I also conduct joint research with them), I think that they take an extra effort when applying for research funds. It is not my intention in this article to criticize how, within Japan, Japan studies are treated as if they do not exist in that grant scheme. Yet, if it is true that the readers of this article (including specialist researchers) assume that Japan studies are mostly undertaken ... ... [Read more]

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No.55

The Value of Co-working and Co-creation: Why Is a Life Cycle Perspective Necessary?

Coexisting with Foreign Workers in Japan The “specified skilled worker” status of residence was established following the enactment of the Act for Partial Amendment of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and the Act for Establishment of the Ministry of Justice in April 2019. As of October 2018, there were about 1.46 million foreign workers in Japan, and the number is projected to increase further in the years ahead. Amid this situation, local communities face the challenge of how to deal with the increasing number of foreign workers and their families. In this feature, the authors [Discuss Japan carries the article by Kawamura Chizuko below], introduce the status of residence system, measures for employing foreign workers, local governments making use of the increasing number of foreigners to revitalize their local communities, efforts made by housing complexes more than half of whose inhabitants are ... ... [Read more]

No.55

What is Needed for Konbini to Truly Become a Part of Social Infrastructure

Today, Japan’s convenience stores (konbini) can already be considered a form of so-called social infrastructure. However, in the face of Japan’s current social circumstances, with the decline in population size and the progression of population aging, konbini now find themselves standing at a crossroads, unable to cater to various changes in consumer lifestyles. In this article, we will consider the reasons behind this situation, and explore ways in which konbini can continue to function as a true part of social infrastructure in the future, based on the history of their evolution up until this point. Konbini at a crossroads Until now, konbini have been recognized/acknowledged as a part of Japan’s social infrastructure, as opposed to simply “convenient” stores at which to shop. This is due to the fact that, despite individual stores being small in scale, convenience store chains have provided not only products ... ... [Read more]

No.54

Creating a “Future” Society: Iwate Prefecture’s Yahaba Town: creating a revitalization strategy with residents from forty years in the future

Residential participation: benefits and problems ——Please tell us how future design came to be introduced to Yahaba Town in Iwate Prefecture. Yoshioka Ritsuji: In recent years, how to maintain worn out water supply infrastructure has become a significant issue for the whole of Japan. Yahaba Town is no different, so we started a residents participation workshop to first learn about residents’ needs and also to communicate that the town office is aware of the issue. As a result of this, we learned that most residents take safe water for granted and want water charges to be as low as possible. But going into the future, we do not know if today’s water rates can keep providing safe water. So that they’d understand the actual situation we thought we’d expand the scope of the workshop. By the end of that, some residents said they thought ... ... [Read more]

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No.56

Research on Water by His Majesty the Emperor and International Society

  His vision and action have advanced from researching “water transportation systems during the Middle Ages” to globally addressing “water for happiness, peace, and prosperity.” What are the thoughts of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, who has served as honorary president of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, on water?     It was the first summer vacation period of the Reiwa era and the Emperor had navigated a busy schedule before attending to his research. Three months after his enthronement, he had restarted his study of water. I was invited to the Imperial Palace in order to present an academic lecture to the Emperor. And as usual, I was greeted with a gentle smile. The topics of discussion that day were varied: water supply, hygiene, climate change, water and food, energy, even culture and belief. It took well ... ... [Read more]

No.55

Future Prospects for a New “Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” Can Be Seen From the Viewpoint of Demographics

Prediction for demographics and the course of direction of hegemons Jimbo Ken: Long-term prediction of the future beyond thirty years often fails because the reality encounters too many unknowns. Demographics is believed to be the exception, as its predictability has been relatively high. Let’s begin with this premise. Currently, the global population is about 7.7 billion. According to population projections by the United Nations, the global population is projected to rise sharply to 9.7 billion by 2050. The increase curve will become gentle and gradual beyond 2050, with the global population projected to hit 10.9 billion in 2100. In addition, increased populations are unevenly distributed in South Asia and the Sub-Saharan African region. Conversely, most developed countries will not see their populations increase, but will enter a rapidly aging society. Based on these projections, our long-term strategy often suggests Africa is the “last frontier,” ... ... [Read more]

No.55

Europe Is at a Crossroads Thirty Years After the Fall of the Berlin Wall

  President Macron has decided to rapidly move closer to Russia amidst heightening concerns over “America First” Policies. His decision is based on the “great game” being played out, namely US-China competition and increased cooperation between China and Russia.     At the commemoration ceremony of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 19, 2019, German Chancellor Minister Angela Merkel and other prime ministers of former Eastern European states gathered and laid flowers by the remains of the Wall. Thirty years have passed since the end of the Cold War, so has the world truly overcome the “Cold War” and entered a new age? It is true that that ideological conflict is no longer so pronounced, but we have not overcome the framework of great power antagonism. In the beginning of the twenty-first century, I argued that a schema ... ... [Read more]

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No.23

Feature Article on Scientific Advice: Paradigm Shift in Scientific Advice Responsible Innovation, Post-Normal Science, and Ecosystemic Approach

Growing expectations and skepticism about “scientific advice” “Scientific advice,” which provides the government, corporations and individuals with useful technical information, knowledge and judgments on the policy issues related to science and technology, such as “risk” issues in food safety, emerging infectious diseases, climate change, earthquakes, nuclear power and cyber security, and as promotion of science, technology and innovation, is expected to play an increasingly vital role in contemporary society. Scientific advice in Japan has hitherto been undertaken by various deliberative bodies and organizations, including councils and committees attached to government ministries and agencies, regulatory bodies such as the Food Safety Commission, and, regarding comprehensive policies for the promotion and regulation of science, technology and innovation, the Cabinet Office’s Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (CSTI) and academic organizations such as the Science Council of Japan (SCJ). In addition, since the Great East Japan Earthquake ... ... [Read more]

No.23

Feature Article on Scientific Advice: Between Science and Administration The Politics of Scientific Advice

(1) Is It Reactionism?  Members of the Subcommittee that deliberated on the draft of the Basic Energy Plan were replaced following a government changeover. In a blatant selection of personnel, the LDP almost exclusively appointed new experts who advocate maintaining or promoting nuclear power generation. The Agency of Natural Resources and Energy has already sent officials to an LDP working group meeting for explaining the draft of the Basic Energy Plan, wherein LDP-affiliated Diet members raised questions about the draft, which positions nuclear power as an important base power source and spells out steady promotion of the nuclear fuel cycle.The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident on 11 March 2011 has been taken as an opportunity to question the ideal form of giving scientific and expert advice to administrative authorities. A variety of criticism has been heard and many proposals made concerning this question, ... ... [Read more]

No.23

The Choice of Collective Self-Defense—Getting Out of the Galapagos Security Perspective Winning a Mandate in the House of Representatives Election — We Will Continue to Consult with New Komeito

Ishiba Shigeru, Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General (currently, Minister in charge of Overcoming Population Decline and Vitalizing Local Economy in Japan, Minister of State for the National Strategic Special Zones) Japan Cannot Operate Only with a Right to Individual Self-Defense The use of the right to collective self-defense has long been discussed in the context of Japan’s national security. Why do you think Japan should shift its defense policy and decide to endorse the use of the right to collective self-defense now? Ishiba Shigeru: The biggest reason is that the security situation surrounding the post-Cold War Asia-Pacific region is very unstable. The balance of power between the United States and the former Soviet Union was stable during the Cold War. In that situation, the seeds of conflict, such as religion, race, territory and political structure, did not surface. We see China rising and increasing its ... ... [Read more]

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No.55

Future Prospects for a New “Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” Can Be Seen From the Viewpoint of Demographics

Prediction for demographics and the course of direction of hegemons Jimbo Ken: Long-term prediction of the future beyond thirty years often fails because the reality encounters too many unknowns. Demographics is believed to be the exception, as its predictability has been relatively high. Let’s begin with this premise. Currently, the global population is about 7.7 billion. According to population projections by the United Nations, the global population is projected to rise sharply to 9.7 billion by 2050. The increase curve will become gentle and gradual beyond 2050, with the global population projected to hit 10.9 billion in 2100. In addition, increased populations are unevenly distributed in South Asia and the Sub-Saharan African region. Conversely, most developed countries will not see their populations increase, but will enter a rapidly aging society. Based on these projections, our long-term strategy often suggests Africa is the “last frontier,” ... ... [Read more]

No.55

Japan and the Republic of Korea Should Return to the 1965 and 1998 Agreements

Sasae Kenichiro, President and Director General of the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) Interviewer: Tawara Soichiro Looking Back at the Past Agreement and Declaration Tawara Soichiro: Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are currently in serious conflict with each other. I therefore wish to direct this question to Mr. Sasae, who served as Director-General of the Asian and Oceania Affairs Bureau and Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). What do you think of the current Japan-ROK relations and the relationship between Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and President Moon Jae-in? Sasae Kenichiro: As you are aware, there have been a number of twists and turns in Japan-ROK relations. In particular, you need to understand that in the ROK, domestic affairs have an impact on the diplomacy between the two countries. The left-leaning governments of the ROK began ... ... [Read more]

No.54

Creating a “Future” Society: Iwate Prefecture’s Yahaba Town: creating a revitalization strategy with residents from forty years in the future

Residential participation: benefits and problems ——Please tell us how future design came to be introduced to Yahaba Town in Iwate Prefecture. Yoshioka Ritsuji: In recent years, how to maintain worn out water supply infrastructure has become a significant issue for the whole of Japan. Yahaba Town is no different, so we started a residents participation workshop to first learn about residents’ needs and also to communicate that the town office is aware of the issue. As a result of this, we learned that most residents take safe water for granted and want water charges to be as low as possible. But going into the future, we do not know if today’s water rates can keep providing safe water. So that they’d understand the actual situation we thought we’d expand the scope of the workshop. By the end of that, some residents said they thought ... ... [Read more]

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Blog

Japan’s Economic Outlook for 2020

In this article, I would like to discuss some of the points that are crucial to Japan’s economic outlook for 2020. First, we should examine whether or not the Japanese economy has peaked out. A reference date related to a peak or a bottom in a business cycle is determined by the Economic and Social Research Institute of the Cabinet Office. It usually takes more than a year for them to determine whether a peak or a bottom has actually occurred in a business cycle because their judgments require comprehensive statistical information pertaining to a certain period of time. This suggests that the government research institute may have missed an opportunity to announce a reference date of a business-cycle peak in a more timely manner simply because comprehensive statistical data are not yet available for them to make a judgment. This assumption sounds extremely ... ... [Read more]

Blog

Freedom of Finance and the Debt-laden Economy

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Blog

Avoiding the Thucydides Trap Through Interdependence Between the United States and China

Kojima Akira, Member, Board of Trustees, and Adjunct Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Trustee, Chairman of the World Trade Center Tokyo ... [Read more]

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