Guest Blog: Japan’s Quest for a Leadership Role in Asia

On 11 March, the Japan Foundation hosted a lecture at Blake Dawson’s offices in Sydney entitled ‘Japan at a Foreign Policy Crossroads: New Direction or More of the Same?’ by Kyoko Hatakeyama, a former official in Japan’s Foreign Ministry who recently completed her doctorate under the supervision of Professor Craig Freedman at Macquarie University. She discussed the possible changes in Japanese foreign policy under the new government led by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), and the lecture included the launch in Australia of ‘Snow on the Pine: Japan’s Quest for a Leadership Role in Asia’, a book based on her thesis and co-authored with Dr Freedman. Here are some notes subsequently provided by Dr Hatakeyama, setting a broader context for many postings and comments on this Blog.

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Asia-Pacific Product Safety Regulation and Other Regional Architecture for a Post-FTA Era

Imagine an international regime with these institutional features:
1. Virtually free trade in goods and services, including a “mutual recognition” system whereby compliance with regulatory requirements in one jurisdiction (eg qualifications to practice law or requirements to offering securities to the public) basically means exemption from compliance with regulations in the other jurisdiction. And for sensitive areas, such as food safety, there is a trans-national regulator.
2. Virtually free movement of capital, underpinned by private sector and governmental initiatives.
3. Permanent residence available to nationals from the other jurisdiction (and strong pressure to maintain flexible rules about multiple nationality).
4. Treaties for regulatory cooperation, simple enforcement of judgments (a court ruling in one jurisdiction is treated virtually identically to a ruling of a local court), and to avoid double taxation (including a system for taxpayer-initiated arbitration among the member states).
5. Government commitment to harmonising business law more widely, eg now for consumer and competition law.
No, the answer is not the obvious one: I am NOT talking about the European Union (EU). I am referring to the Trans-Tasman framework built up between Australia and New Zealand, particularly over the last decade, sometimes through treaties (binding in international law) but sometimes in softer ways (eg parallel legislation in each country). And since both countries are actively pursuing bilateral and now some regional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), especially in the Asia-Pacific region, can’t at least some of these Trans-Tasman initiatives become a template for a broader “Asia Pacific Community”?
This question is particularly timely as the new DPJ-led government in Japan, has declared its support not only for the WTO system but also for FTAs, particularly in the Asian region. It also advocates improvements in food and consumer product safety measures. Whether or not Australia is considered part of Asia, either by Japan or itself, the two countries are continuing bilateral FTA negotiations in the context of growing involvement in regional arrangements in the Asia-Pacific region. Such developments constitute one theme at the NZ Centre for International Economic Law conference, “Trade Agreements: Where Do We Go From Here?”, over 22-23 October 2009 in Wellington. Below is an edited introduction to my four-part paper, now available in further updated form as a Sydney Law School Research Paper. Powerpoint slides are also available in PDF here.

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Australia and Japan: A New Economic [and Legal!] Partnership in Asia

Emeritus Professor Peter Drysdale recently presented in Sydney a preview of his now-published consultancy report for Austrade, which urges (p3):
“a paradigm shift in thinking about Australia’s relationship with the Japanese economy. The Japanese market is no longer confined to Japan itself. It is a huge international market generated by the activities of Japanese business and investors, especially via production networks in Asia. It is a market enhanced by the economic cooperation programs of the Japanese government throughout the developing world, particularly in the Asian and Pacific region. And it is a market in which Japanese business now plays an increasingly important role from an Australian base in manufacturing, agriculture and services.”
The Australian Financial Review now confirms that Japan has led China and other Asian investors into Australia over the last year (“What Crisis? Asian Investors rush to our shores”, 24 September 2009). But many probably remain unaware of these facts highlighted by Drysdale’s report (pp 3-4):
“The stock of Japanese investment in Asia amounted to A$ 180 billion out of Japan’s global investment of A$ 772 billion at end-2008. The flow of export and import trade which Japanese business generates in Asia each year was US$ 690 billion in 2008. Procurements through Japanese corporate subsidiaries in Asia amount to A$ 1.2 trillion annually. In addition, Japan spent A$ 11 billion (901 billion yen) in Asia on Overseas Development Assistance programs and procurement through economic cooperation programs. Japanese business has now also established a platform for export to the region from Australia, with diversified investments across food, manufacturing as well as resources, that already delivers A$ 6 billion in Australian sales to Asian markets other than Japan. These are all large new elements in the economic relationship with Japan beyond the A$ 51 billion export trade and A$ 20 billion import trade that Australia already does each year with Japan itself.”
These pervasive economic ties are underpinned by very wide-ranging and stable relations between Australia and Japan at all sorts of levels: governmental, judicial, educational, working holidays, and so on. As pointed out in another recent report “Australia and Japan: Beyond the Mainstream”, by Manuel Panagiotopolous and Andrew Cornell for the Australia Japan Foundation, the GFC has led policy-makers as well as businesspeople to look again more favourably on relationships that combine lower risk with less return, compared to high risk/return ventures.
We can take advantage of these strong and still very profitable Australia-Japan bilateral relationships, as well as the investment and trading links each country (especially Japan) has developed in other parts of Asia particularly since the 1990s, by more actively joining Australian and Japanese partners for ventures throughout Asia. This spreads the risks typically associated with the possibility of higher returns, and also allows each partner to contribute goods or services in which that country has more of a comparative advantage. Thus, for example, Drysdale suggests (p25):
“partnership with Australian services firms in finance, legal services and engineering could be mutual productive. … In FTA talks with Japan the Rudd Government is trying to open the way for professional and financial services firms to set up in Japan, encouraging wider recognition of qualifications and the removal of barriers to obtaining licences in Japan”.
As an example of “legal and consultancy services”, Drysdale mentions that several Australian law firms have long experience in the Asian region, and gives the example of Mallesons Japan. But he concludes that “if we are serious about joining global supply chains and capturing service industry opportunities in Asia then Australian firms need to be there on the ground to capture the business”.

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Kawamura Connections: Tokyo Lawyers Go Global, All the Way With the IBA

Mr Akira Kawamura is senior partner in Anderson Mori & Tomotsune (AMT), one of Tokyo’s “big four” firms – each of which now has around 400-500 lawyers, compared to around 50 just a decade ago. He is also Vice-President of the International Bar Association (IBA), a federation of law societies from 136 countries comprising over 20,000 members world-wide. Kawamura-sensei is also one of Sydney Law School’s distinguished alumni, obtaining an LLM here in 1979, and he is a founding Advisor to the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL) as well as a generous donor for the ANJeL Akira Kawamura course prizes in Japanese Law. On 21 September he visited the new Law School building and spoke with staff and students about global legal practice, developments in Japan, and the work of the IBA.
kawamura.jpg

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China, national security, and investment treaties

Peter Drysdale’s weekly editorial for the East Asia Forum, along with related postings to that blog and enormous media attention in Australia and elsewhere, focuses ‘on the continuing detention of Rio Tinto executive, Stern Hu, in Shanghai on allegations of espionage’. Drysdale signposts some future analysis of ‘the legal framework under which Hu’s detention has taken place’. He also emphasises that we need ‘a cooperative framework—bilaterally, regionally and globally‘ for ‘China’s authorities to avoid damage to the reliability of markets and for Australia to avoid the perception of investment protectionism’. The most pressing legal (and diplomatic) issues concern China’s criminal justice system, especially when ‘national security’ is allegedly involved. But we need already to consider some broader ramifications, including how we think about FDI legislation and (increasingly intertwined) investment treaty protections.
In short, most agree that the Chinese government got annoyed when Australia itself invoked national security interests to restrict Minmetals bid for OZ Minerals back in March 2009. Then it got really annoyed when Chinalco’s bid for Rio Tinto fell through, even though the Australian government wasn’t directly involved. And so, one story goes, Stern Hu has been arrested to send a message – in the hope that Australia (and other potential host states) will be think twice before invoking national security exceptions to restrict future FDI from China. The China-watchers are better placed to decide whether this is really the motivation behind his arrest. My point here is rather that we should not be surprised that host states may be increasingly tempted to invoke exceptions to limit FDI at the outset, which in turn generates risks of (over-)reactions by home states, as we may be witnessing in Hu’s case. And the initial temptation may arise due to proliferating investor-state arbitration provisions in investment treaties, because those later restrict their room to invoke national security or other limits once the FDI has been approved.

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Australia and Japan as America’s Deputies – in Multilateralism?

Dr Malcolm Cook and Mr Andrew Shearer at the Lowy Institute in Sydney published last month a short analysis entitled Going Global: A New Australia-Japan Agenda for Multilateral Cooperation:
‘To help both governments navigate [a] more complicated and uncertain international environment, the paper offers a agenda for enhanced Australia-Japan multilateral cooperation organised around:
– support for American global leadership, and
– reforming post-war multilateralism.
Three areas of international policy are particularly well suited to closer Australia-Japan cooperation in pursuit of these goals: climate change and energy security; nuclear non-proliferation; and official development assistance.’
I have some doubts about these two foundational principles, especially over the mid- to long-term, given America’s own longstanding ambivalence about multilateralism, and its relative decline particularly since the GFC. In the short term, however, it seems worthwhile to think more deeply and creatively about three of their seven specific recommendations:
‘- Leverage APEC and the East Asia Summit more to act as caucuses in multilateral bodies like the WTO …
– Better coordinate Australian and Japanese aid policies and programs …
– More ambitiously, develop and pursue an Australia-Japan agenda for reform of the multilateral system.’ (p2)

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Consequences of melamine-laced milk for China, NZ, Japan and beyond

[Originally posted, with full hyperlinks, at http://eastasiaforum.org/author/lukenottage/]
For weeks I have been tracking this latest evolving food safety scandal, but reports and reactions vary markedly across the region. Media coverage is likely to remain disparate. But the saga should provide lessons for developing bilateral and regional infrastructure to “trade up” to a more harmonized regime, better securing consumer product safety in our FTA era.
At a news conference this Wednesday the Chinese Health Ministry announced melamine limits for dairy products, but declined to provide updated statistics on those so far harmed by tainted products. In September the figures given were 53000 children sickened, 13000 hospitalised, and at least three dead from kidney stones due to drinking products made from milk that suppliers or intermediaries had bolstered with this chemical to hide the fact it had been watered down. Yet the government demands notification if Chinese lawyers decide to represent victims.

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Whaling: What can law add to science, economics, ethics and politics?

[Originally posted, with full hyperlinks, at http://eastasiaforum.org/author/lukenottage/]
As an Australian/New Zealander lawyer who has spent almost eight years on and off in Japan since 1990, I am concerned that both sides tend to adopt internally inconsistent positions on whaling. What can the law add to this controversial topic?
Kent Anderson rightly points out the Japan reveals a major “blind spot” in underestimating antipodean objections nowadays to commercial whaling. But some Japanese commentators are all too aware of those objections; it’s just that they think them to be hypocritical. That is, when Australia brings claims against Japan under the WTO (or potentially, soon, under our FTA), it insists that any measures impeding its agricultural trade need to be based on science and economics, not the cultural values invoked by Japanese farming communities or their politicians and bureaucrats. Yet when whales are at stake, Australia insists that this is not about science and economics. The ethics involved in killing or keeping alive these magnificent mammals become a major factor – increasingly, it seems, a definitive one. Japanese commentators tend to see this as a double standard, which is why some of them delight then in highlighting kangaroo culling or ethically debatable farming practices in Australia.
But the Japanese government’s position is also inconsistent. When it defends WTO claims, at least to its own citizens, it invokes culture and ethics. Yet when it comes to whaling, the government and the media focus instead on economics and science. A major reason for this double standard, but also Australia’s, is local politics. Rural communities retain disproportionate voting power in Japan, while an anti-whaling stance plays into growing public concerns about other environmental issues in Australia.
How can the law help in such tense situations?

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