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”.

Continue reading “Australia and Japan: A New Economic [and Legal!] Partnership in Asia”

Law, Public Policy and Economics in Japan and Australia: Reviewing Bilateral Relations and Commercial Regulation in 2009

This is the grand title of a modest Sydney Law School Research Paper (No 09/71) updating and editing another collection of my blog postings both here and on the East Asia Forum. Freely downloadable via http://ssrn.com/abstract=1446523, it is based mainly on developments from the end of 2008 through to mid-2009.
Many topics are important not only within Australia and Japan, but also potentially for bilateral relations (for example, as novel dimensions to the FTA or ‘Economic Partnership Agreement’ already under negotiation between these two countries). Several topics (for example, the state of economics as a discipline after the GFC, neo-communitarian perspectives on comparative law and society, the legacy of the post-War Occupation of Japan) also address more broadly how we should (re)conceptualise law, economics and public policy particularly in the Asia-Pacific context.

Continue reading “Law, Public Policy and Economics in Japan and Australia: Reviewing Bilateral Relations and Commercial Regulation in 2009”

Australia, Social Justice and Labour Reform in Occupation Japan

This is the sub-title to a fascinating recent book by University of Wollongong CAPSTRAN Research Fellow, Dr Christine de Matos, Imposing Peace and Prosperity (Australian Scholarly Publishing, North Melbourne, 2008, ISBN 1740971612 ix + 427 pp). This eminently readable work is based on her PhD dissertation submitted to the University of Western Sydney in 2003. But those readers (like myself) who do not specialise in history per se may like to fast-forward first to her “Concluding Thoughts” in Chapter 8, “The Context of Australian Policy Towards the Japanese Labour Movement” (pp 328-9):

The United States came to promote a capital-led economic recovery in postwar Japan, while the Chifley government [in Australia, 1945-9] favoured a labour-led one. These essential differences could never be reconciled in terms of Allied labour policy in Japan. A labour-led recovery was essential to the pragmatic Australian aims of security, trade and maintenance of ‘White Australia’. A labour-led recovery would negate the traditional fear held towards a ‘yellow’ nation, once economically and militarily powerful, yet a nation with low living standards and an exploited workforce deemed inimical to living standards and jobs in Australia and Australian regional trade ambitions. For the United States, the Japanese labour movement was too radical, too militant and too political – thus the free rein given to labour was, after 1947, tightly drawn back. For Australia, the Japanese labour movement was not radical enough, or sincere enough, or had developed roots deep enough to play its integral role in Australian policy – a role for which permission and approval was never sought. Japanese workers were, in the end, not trusted by a nation steeped in suspicion, fear and insecurity. The United States enacted a controlled and superficial revolution from above; Australia envisaged the conditions and structures from outside that would, over time, nurture a controlled but penetrating revolution from below. Time was what Australian policy demanded; time was what US policy was not willing to concede.

Continue reading “Australia, Social Justice and Labour Reform in Occupation Japan”