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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #371: November 9, 2006

U.S. Election Won't Change Japan Ties, Shiozaki Says

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

U.S. Election Won't Change Japan Ties, Shiozaki Says
(John Brinsley and Keiichi Yamamura) Bloomberg


The U.S. election resulted in reflecting strong resentment against the Republicans and/or enthusiastic support for the Democrats. Reports say that the reason behind the shift of support was largely due to President Bush's handling of Iraqi affairs. Apparently to have acknowledged the message, Mr Bush announced to dismiss the Defense Secretary Rumsfeld even before the final results of the election were available. Obviously the first of Mr Bush's policies affected will be on Iraq, but it remains to be seen whether a Democratic Congress and a new boss to lead defense will make it possible either for a "victory" in Iraq or a dignified exit from the mess.

In Japan, the U.S. policy changes, that may affect its people more directly are the concern. Although some suggest changes would be small as Mr Bush is still in the office, the President's policies in practice inevitably needs to be altered to accommodate Democrats to cope with the Congress controlled by the opponent.

In particular, the Senate's special responsibilities make Democratic control significant. The upper chamber has the powers to ratify - or deny - all treaties, as well as the authority to confirm all judges, ambassadors, and cabinet secretaries. This leads to the concern over its trade policy in general, and more specifically, with Japan.

Democrats have been renowned for their protectionist agenda when it comes to trade. For example, one of the most vocal, Senator Byron Dorgan from North Dakota, states in his website, "I support expanded foreign trade, but only if it is fair and mutually beneficial trade. That means insisting that our trading partners open their markets to our products. And it means preventing American companies from moving U.S. jobs overseas to take advantage of sweatshop labor, and to be able to dump chemicals into the air and water."

Although the expression here - on the website where anyone can access - is soft and carefully tuned not to step too much into sensitive fields, the message is clear for the party relying on support from labor unions, that domestic - and existing - jobs shall not be threatened for the cause of trade liberalization.

On a more practical note, the "Fast Track," where the legislature authorizes the President to negotiate trade agreements without consulting Congress - now called "Trade Promotion Authority" by its supporters - will expire in July 2007, and its extension is now endangered. If not renewed, it would make it very difficult for the U.S. to play active roles in various trade talks, including the WTO negotiations already experiencing a very rocky road.

For Japan, whether it would be able to enjoy the status of being the closest ally of the U.S. on this side of the globe is a serious concern.

On the economic front, experience show that Japan had to face more difficulties in the days of Democrat ruled U.S. The protectionist tendency obviously has a lot to do with in the background, but it has been often the case that the Democrat's U.S. in the past somehow favored cultivating new relations with China - and even North Korea at times - rather than strengthening its ties with Japan. Phenomena expressed by phrases such as "Japan bashing" and then "Japan passing" were observed more often in the days of Democrats than Republicans. Although there are views expressed that China might be facing a hard time because of the human rights issues there that Democrats considers important, it remains to be seen if that cause is sufficient to alter the policies likely to have been carried over from the past.

There are concerns in the political front, too. It was under the Clinton administration in 1994 that concluded the "Agreed Framework" between North Korea to control its nuclear development, only to be later ignored and cast off by the North. Learning a lessen that the lenient attitude by the U.S. at the time led to the nuclear explosion the North conducted recently, the Bush administration, with the global support, has been taking a hard stance against the North. The "humanitarian" approach generally preferred by the Democrats could undermine such globally coordinated policy measures if the U.S. were to provide aid to the "starving children" in the North, which, experiences show, has only provided nutrients to the military while children continued to starve.

With full respect for the choice made by the American people through an exercise of free election, majority of the Japanese people wish it for the U.S. to remain as one of the closest allies, sharing the belief in freedom and democracy.

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