A One-Sided US-Japan Trade Agreement
SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported in the second half of September 2019 by the Shingetsu News Agency.
Rolling Coverage: US Trade Agreement
—US President Donald Trump officially informs Congress that his administration has reached agreements with Japan on tariff barriers and digital trade that it intends to sign in the coming weeks. The president says neither of these agreements require Congressional approval.
—Abe government officials react cautiously after the Trump administration advises the US Congress that a bilateral trade agreement with Japan is expected in the coming weeks. Apparently, the Abe government does not think the agreement is that close.
—Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi says that bilateral trade negotiations with the Trump government are “completely finished” and that the agreement will be signed.
—Shinzo Abe signs trade agreement that appears to be quite one sided, cutting Japanese tariffs on US beef, pork, wheat, and cheese. What did Japan get? Lower tariffs on a handful of small volume industrial goods; mainly just avoiding the “threat” of large US auto tariffs.
—US President Donald Trump makes clear that if he is reelected as president, he will be back with yet more trade demands on Japan: “This is a big chunk, but in the fairly near future we’re going to be having a lot more comprehensive deals signed with Japan.”
—Japanese farmers concern deepening that the Abe government is selling their interests down the river to protect the Japanese auto sector from Trump tariffs. While Japanese agriculture is of high quality, it will also be impossible to compete on price point with US imports.
Rolling Coverage: United Opposition Caucus
—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Democratic Party For the People, and some independents like Yoshihiko Noda confirm that they will create a combined center-left parliamentary caucus in both houses of the Diet. To a certain extent, the old Democratic Party returns.
—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan giving up its identity as a progressive political party, now allowing more conservative lawmakers to join. For example, lawmakers such as former Finance Minister Jun Azumi enter the party and is given an executive post.
—With deep regret, we note that the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s embrace of uninspiring middle-of-the-roadism is effectively a ticket to five or more years of essentially unchallenged conservative and rightwing rule of Japan, further eroding democratic culture.
—The party executive post given to the conservative former Finance Minister Jun Azumi, immediately after his entry to the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, is head of Diet Affairs. He replaces the more liberal Kiyomi Tsujimoto, who is demoted to community exchanges.
—The key weakness of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan that is leading to its downfall is that its founder and leader, Yukio Edano, created a progressive political party without himself really being a believer in progressive politics. The early sign of trouble in the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan was its unwillingness to work with the Japan Communist Party to create a viable, united progressive front. In its local elections strategy, the party was never innovative at all.
—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano tours Chiba and criticizes the Abe government’s typhoon responses. Now that he has shifted back to centrism, this is the kind of government critique to expect from him: Criticisms of process, not fundamental issues.
—Ichiro Ozawa says a unified caucus between the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party For the People isn’t enough. Rather, they should merge back into a single political party. Such a move would also put Ozawa back into the lead opposition party.
—Democratic Party of Japan 4.0 will obviously be hobbled by the same ideological disunity and Rengo policy idiocy as the previous versions. It’s a truly a shame, because the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan did everything right in its early months and had potential.
—Japan Communist Party reveals that daily readers of its newspaper Akahata have now fallen below one million people. Chairman Kazuo Shii responds, “Frankly speaking, it’s a crisis.”
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe voices his concern over the eight-day blackout in parts of Chiba Prefecture and calls on government officials to make “all efforts” to restore power as soon as possible.
—With the public funding it has received as an official national political party, Reiwa Shinsengumi has moved into a new office in Akasaka. The first floor may be used for discussion events that engage with the public.
—Reiwa Shinsengumi leader Taro Yamamoto expresses displeasure with most of the other opposition parties regarding his proposal to reduce the consumption tax: “Except for the Japan Communist Party, we’ve been ignored. The opposition parties must pool their combined power.”
—Social Democratic Party’s only single-member district House of Representatives lawmaker, Kantoku Teruya of the Okinawa No. 2 district, has decided that this will be his last term in office. He is now 74 years old and wants to give way to the younger generation.
—October 4 set as the date for the beginning of the Extraordinary Diet Session. Much attention focused on whether or not Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seriously tries to push forward with Constitution revision. He’s long promised that 2020 would be the year of revision.
—Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi: “In politics, there are so many issues that are sometimes boring. On tackling such a large-scale issue like climate change, it’s got to be fun, it’s got to be cool. It’s got to be sexy too.”
—Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi under fire for his comments that the issue of climate change should be made fun, cool, and sexy. He is being widely mocked from both sides of the debate. Our take was that he was actually making a useful point about garnering support.
—Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura suggests that the freedom of expression exhibition featuring a Comfort Women statue, etc., which was shut down due to rightwing terrorist threats last month, should be reopened. If it happens, however, there will be very heavy media restrictions.
—Abe flunkey-cum-Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda announces that national subsidies to the Aichi Triennale are hereby cancelled. He pretends that this has nothing to do with freedom of expression, or retaliation over the Comfort Women statue, but everyone gets the message.
—After Nagoya District Court gets involved, it is agreed that the freedom of expression exhibit, including the Comfort Women statue, at the Aichi Triennale will briefly reopen under tightly-controlled conditions from October 6 to 8, a three-day span.
—Protect the Nation from NHK party leader Takashi Tachibana denounces people in developing nations as “close to being dogs” and people who “have babies to the point of idiocy.” He concludes that “We should just wipe out races that have babies like idiots.”
—Russian Senate Defense Committee Chair Frants Klintsevich: “A peace treaty has not been concluded due to nuances and a series of issues. US military bases in Japan is one of these. The bases are next to the Russian border. This is connected with the security of our country.”
—The remains of around 600 individuals that were sent from Russia to Japan are not, as was believed, Japanese detainees who died in the USSR after the Pacific War, but local Russians. Since 1991, the remains of some 13,000 Japanese have been repatriated from Russia.
—Russia has suspended permission for Japan to conduct further excavations in Siberia in search of remains of Japanese detainees who died in the area after the Pacific War. This follows reports that Japan may have accidentally repatriated remains of 600 non-Japanese.
—Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitri Peskov says a peace treaty with Japan is “practically impossible.” He notes Japan’s alliance commitments and claims that the US has the right to site military infrastructure “at any location in Japan, without asking Tokyo’s permission.”
—Ground Self-Defense Forces establishing a cyberwarfare base with a staff of 80 people in Kumamoto Prefecture.
—Space Self-Defense Forces? Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits the Defense Ministry and avers that the Air Self-Defense Forces may eventually “evolve into the Air and Space Self-Defense Forces.”
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets North Korea abductee families and again pledges to solve the issue: “I will meet with Mr. Kim without preconditions and am determined to work towards an early resolution through sober analysis and by not missing any chances.”
—Abe government growing concerned that some small, outlying islands may disappear due to rising sea levels and erosion, thus reducing the area that Japan can claim as its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.
—South Korea’s WTO complaint against the Abe government cites its “politically-motivated, disguised restrictions on trade” and denounces Abe’s use of “political considerations unrelated to any legitimate export control considerations” in implementing its recent policies.
—South Korea has officially removed Japan from its “white list” of trade partners, its retaliation for the same move by the Abe government last month. Still no sign of easing in the Japan-South Korea dispute.
—Japan Tourism Agency reports that the number of South Korean visitors to Japan dropped 48% in August year-on-year, finally giving statistical weight to the anecdotal stories about fewer South Koreans using airlines, etc.
—Asian Development Bank expected to have a change of leadership next year. President Takehiko Nakao to step down and he is now expected to be replaced by Masatsugu Asakawa, a former vice finance minister.
—High concentrations of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) found near US military bases in Okinawa, but the US military continues to refuse all requests by the local governments to conduct inspections, citing their power to do so under SOFA.
—Japan Coast Guard asks prosecutors to indict the unknown pilot of the US Marine MV-22 Osprey that crashed in Okinawa in December 2016, saying that the accident was caused by pilot error. The US military has so far completely refused to cooperate with Japan’s investigation.
—There are concerns that US President Donald Trump’s raiding of the military budget for his border wall scheme may delay preparations in Guam to receive some US Marines currently based in Okinawa, though the actual effect is unclear at this point.
—For the second time this summer, someone has vandalized the Comfort Women statue in in Glendale, California. This time a black marker was used, and potted plants kicked over. It is being investigated as a potential hate crime.
—Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi speaks with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and urges that a No Deal Brexit be avoided. He wasted his breath: Raab is one of the UK government’s most rabid Brexiteers, even saying publicly that legal limits should be tested.
—Fast Retailing CEO Tadashi Yanai tells CNN that Brexit will be very difficult to implement, and “if Brexit does happen, the UK could revert back to the former situation before the Margaret Thatcher era, when the UK was referred to as the Sick Man of Europe.”
—Abe government declines request to chair a group for cutting greenhouse gas emissions at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York because some participating nations plan to raise their targets, but Japan is planning to make no changes in its current policies.
—Japan and Indonesia signed a deal that will see about US$4.2 billion in investment to build a railway between the Indonesian capital of Jakarta and the second-largest city, Surabaya. The Abe government has been eager to show its usefulness as a counterbalance to China.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at UN General Assembly: “The attack on Saudi Arabia’s crude oil facilities was an extremely contemptible crime that holds the international economic order hostage.” It is widely noted, however, that he did not follow the US in blaming Iran.
—US President Donald Trump pressuring the Abe government to condemn Iran over recent attacks on major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. So far, Prime Minister Abe is partially resisting this pressure, but past experience suggests that if the pressure continues, he will break.
—Defense Minister Taro Kono hails unprecedented joint air combat drills between Japan and Australia, claiming that it “will lead to peace in the region.” The exercises are being held in Hokkaido and are codenamed “Bushido Guardian 19.”
—The Abe government and the European Union sign an infrastructure agreement to link Europe and Asia, coordinating infrastructure, transport, and digital projects. It is rather explicitly being portrayed as a rival to China’s “Belt and Road” policies.
—Genki Sushi is being targeted by protesters in Hong Kong for graffiti, etc., because its local franchise owner, Maxim’s Caterers, is openly backing pro-Beijing hardline measures against the protesters, with Annie Wu, daughter of the founder, speaking at the United Nations.
—Hiroto Saikawa resigns as CEO of Nissan, his fall triggered by a scandal in which he was secretly overpaid, but also built upon his role in stabbing Carlos Ghosn in the back and turning in poor financial results. Yasuhiro Yamauchi is interim CEO while a new leader is found.
—Nissan Motor, Carlos Ghosn, and Greg Kelly agree to pay major fines to the US Securities and Exchange Commission to settle fraud charges related to the false disclosures about Ghosn’s financial compensation. Nissan paid the highest amount, US$15 million.
—New METI Minister Isshu Sugawara says that Japan could release its oil reserves depending on how the situation in Saudi Arabia develops. Drone attacks have caused Saudi oil production to decline by about half, raising global oil prices.
—Texas Governor Greg Abbott arrives in Japan on an extended trade mission, including visits to Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya. Japan is the 5th largest international destination for Texas’ exports and receives the second-most Japanese imports among US states.
—Transport Ministry says that they want to learn lessons from Narita Airport being isolated for many hours in the wake of Typhoon No. 15 (Typhoon Faxai). They are particularly concerned that nothing similar happens next year during the 2020 Olympics.
—The number of houses in Chiba Prefecture damaged by Typhoon No. 15 (Typhoon Faxai) is likely more than 20,000, according to the ongoing surveys.
—Tokyo District Court finds all three TEPCO executives “Not Guilty,” meaning that no one, apparently, was personally responsible for the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disasters. As they say, success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan.
—Some very backward pro-nuclear reasoning by the Tokyo District Court: “If all possibilities for a tsunami are considered, and it is made a requirement that measures be taken against these possibilities, then it would be impossible to operate a nuclear power plant.”
—One Yen coins thought likely to become more rare in the coming months and years as the consumption tax hike to 10% on most goods and increased cashless payments reduce the need for their circulation.
—Forever 21, the Los Angeles-based fashion brand with major outlets in places like Shinjuku and Shibuya, is reportedly on the verge of bankruptcy and will close all fourteen of its stores in Japan within the next month.
—More corruption exposed in Japan’s nuclear industry. Six Kansai Electric Power Company top executives, including Chairman Makoto Yagi, took 180 million yen (US$1.7 million) in bribes from the late deputy mayor of Takahama town, which hosts a nuclear plant. Note that it was these very same KEPCO executives who fought tooth-and-nail after the March 11 disaster to preserve the nuclear power industry. They also had confrontations with former Osaka Governor Toru Hashimoto over their pro-nuclear policies. Now we can see why.
—KEPCO Takahama nuclear corruption expands as it is revealed that Yoshida Kaihatsu, a local construction company, used the deputy mayor’s services to massively boost its nuclear-industry related contracts while paying bribes to the deputy mayor of almost US$3 million.
—Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui suggests that there could be a lawsuit against KEPCO executives over the pro-nuclear bribes accepted by its senior executives. He also says that all 20 executives who accepted bribes must be publicly identified and face consequences.
—The crisis deepens at Japan Display, an important supplier to Apple, after Harvest Tech Investment Management, a Chinese firm, retracts its offer to provide about 60 billion yen (US$560 million) in support to the financially struggling manufacturer.
—Toyota Motor Corporation leading a project to create a solar-powered car fitted with ultrathin solar panels. The notion is that future cars might draw their energy directly from the sun without needing to be refueled or even plugged in.
—Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi expresses enthusiasm about 5G: “I want to fully utilize the 5G technology in order for people to live safely and to get high-quality welfare and education services wherever they live.”
—The World Robotics Report of the International Federation of Robotics estimates an annual global sales value of US$16.5 billion in 2018 for the robotics industry. The top five countries are China, Japan, South Korea, United States, and Germany.
—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga to lead a new digital market competition headquarters that will discuss Japan’s approach to tougher regulation of the international IT giants such as Google, Facebook, Apple, etc.
—Japanese government putting rules in place for autonomous vehicles, building out the regulatory framework to oversee the new technologies.
—Ministry of Internal Affairs data shows that there are now almost 35.9 million Japanese aged 65 or older, making up 28.4% of the population. Japan remains what is undoubtedly the oldest society in human history from the point of view of demography.
—Iki city, Nagasaki Prefecture, becomes the first local municipality in the nation to declare a “climate emergency.” Iki, which is also a small island, has been battered by torrential rains in recent years, one of the symptoms of global warming.
—Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai says that his ministry will begin to study the possibility of offering joint custody of children after divorce. Japan’s current system generally allows only one parent to have custody.
—Education Ministry study concludes that about 15% of foreign school-age children in Japan are not, in fact, attending school at all. That is almost 20,000 children not receiving a public education. Language barriers and insufficient local government support are key factors.
—Tokyo District Court upholds the constitutionality of forcing married couples to legally adopt the same surname. This judgement agrees with previous judgements that such a law is constitutional because it is “Japanese custom.”
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