Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has indicated that Japan is interested in cooperating with China on their ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Abe was speaking today at a dinner which was part of Nikkei’s Future of Asia conference in Tokyo. His comments follow the visit to Tokyo last week of Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi, where he met with both Prime Minister Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Abe indicated that while he is hopeful the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement may be revived despite the withdrawal of the US, he also hopes that the Regional Cooperative Economic Partnership– often seen as a rival grouping – will take on board some of the of the more integrated agreements negotiated as part of the TPP.
Commercial realities for Japanese firms, however, may dampen enthusiasm for the project. Reuters recently reported that according to their monthly Reuters Corporate Survey, Japanese companies are showing very little interest in commercial opportunities presented by the BRI. Instead, they are focusing on the possibility of the TPP being renegotiated, or a straightforward free trade agreement between Japan and the US. According to the survey, the level of commercial relevance of Russian-Japanese economic cooperation also came in higher than BRI related opportunities.
According to the Straits Times, in his keynote speech at the Future of Asia conference, Singapore’s Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong urged China and Japan to cooperate as a broad rebuff to the global trend of populism and nationalism impacting the success of trade negotiations such as those for the TPP agreement.