Japan’s plan to help victorious Boris Johnson
Does the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson require any advice following his party’s landslide victory in last week’s general election?
As a former journalist, he may well feel he’s entitled to switch off the TV, unplug the computer and ignore the newspapers.
Nevertheless, thousands of reporters are eagerly offering him suggestions on which policies he should follow. One proposal which appeared in the Financial Times caught my eye.
The writer, Gideon Rachman, started by repeating the FT’s position that the Brexit is a disaster for the UK’s businesses and for its economy. He said: “a sceptical world believes that leaving the EU is an act of self harm.”
But he went on to suggest that a landmark deal with Japan could help “rebuild British power and influence.”
The article said that Britain should become a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an international trading pact which is strongly advocated by Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe.
Mr Rachman claimed that countries like Japan “have a clear interest in preserving international rules at a time when both the US and China are challenging the multilateral order.”
Following the Brexit, British diplomats face many years of trade negotiations with countries outside the EU.
One key consideration will be how to approach China, which is hugely important to the global economy but which is run on a quite different political system to that of the UK.
Mr Abe could make the case that if Britain sides with China through the TPP, this would help counterweight Chinese influence, especially within Asia. The TPP includes several nations which could be regarded as rivals of China, such as Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Other members include Australia, New Zealand and Canada, all of which enjoy a close relationship with Britain.
Trump’s world view
Japan had hoped that the United States would also be part of the TPP. Barack Obama agreed to join but Donald Trump withdrew America’s application as soon as he became president.
Nevertheless, Mr Abe has done his best to keep on good terms with Mr Trump. This pleases many people in Washington, who believe that America’s focus nowadays should be Asia and not Europe or the Middle East.
Mr Johnson and Mr Trump have a built a rapport and have some common ground.
Following the general election, Downing Street announced: “The prime minister spoke with president Trump, who congratulated him on the result.
“They discussed the huge importance of the relationship between the UK and US and looked forward to continued close cooperation on issues such as security and trade, including the negotiation of an ambitious free trade agreement.”
I doubt that during their short telephone exchange they got onto the topic the TPP. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s mentioned next time they meet, especially in the context of the importance of Asia to the global economy.