Tags: Shinzo Abe | Japan | impact | United States

Gizzi: Japan PM Abe's Stronger Post-Election Hand Will Impact US

By    |   Tuesday, 16 December 2014 09:55 PM

Three days after Japanese voters gave a resounding win to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party, the Obama administration and outside experts on the Far East agree the results will have a major impact on the United States in the next few years.

Among the issues that are sure to generate discussion and debate between Washington and Tokyo are two major trade agreements now pending in the U.S. Senate, and Abe's years-old talk of amending his country's U.S-written postwar constitution to permit Japan to maintain a self-defense force.

In addition, the uncertain condition of the Japanese economy is having an impact on the U.S. economy's recovery. Japan's economy fell into recession in the third quarter of 2014. This meant that private consumption, investment in new business, and exports slowed dramatically in the world's third-largest economy.

Because the two economies are so connected, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday, Japan's economy is a "headwind" hitting the U.S. economy and slowing its recovery from the Great Recession of the last decade.

Two years after he became prime minister for the second non-consecutive time, Abe called a surprise "snap" election and, on Sunday, his LDP captured 295 of the 460 seats in the Diet (lower house of the Japanese parliament).

Although the turnout was a post-war low (52 per cent), "there is no other comparable politician to Shinzo Abe," said Derek Scissors, Asian economics scholar and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

"Japan hasn't had the semi-charismatic leader that Abe is."

A big part of the reason behind Japan's lagging economic rebound, Scissors says, is that Abe's much-discussed economic reforms ("Abenomics") have not been nearly as dynamic as they originally were built up to be. Abenomics, in his words, "is not even a wet firecracker" so far.

Refreshed from his party's big win in the election, Abe is now poised to pursue more dynamic policies such as opening the workforce to women, lowering corporate tax rates, and getting some of Japan's nuclear reactors back in business.

More important to the U.S. in the short term, Abe is likely to move on getting his country into two U.S. trade agreements that have languished in the Senate for three years while awaiting word from Tokyo: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), currently negotiated between the U.S. and the European Union, and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which the U.S. is now negotiating with eleven other countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

"If the U.S. can move on TPP in June, it will be the best offer to come through Congress," said Scissors, "but Japan has to respond. If you want to be a player, you have to be for TPP."

Going back before his first (and unsuccessful) stint as prime minister, Abe has made little secret of his desire to see Japan amend Article 9 of its constitution and thus allow the nation to have a self-defense force that can respond to attacks.

On the morning after the election, the prime minister said he planned to submit a bill to the Diet session to revise the constitution so Japan could exercise self-defense as well as defense of its allies, including the U.S.

President Barack Obama has long sought to see Abe end past differences with South Korean President Park Guen-hye, but this would be out of the question if Japan follows the course of rearmament. Abe's seeming preoccupation with this course rather than domestic concerns is usually pointed to as a reason for his fall from power in 2006.

"So, the question now is does he allow that to deter him and sap away his time?" asked Michael Auslin, another Asian scholar at AEI.

"In pursuing the agenda he has in this term as prime minister," Auslin said, "Abe is a little bit like Bill Clinton when he lost the governorship of Arkansas [in 1980]. He said he was wrong, he got it, and he would do what the people wanted. Abe, in essence, did the same thing."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.







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Three days after Japanese voters gave a resounding win to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party, the Obama administration and outside experts on the Far East agree the results will have a major impact on the United States in the next few years.
Shinzo Abe, Japan, impact, United States
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2014-55-16
Tuesday, 16 December 2014 09:55 PM
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