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Japanese Foreign Economic Policy Essay

The two papers together provide a comprehensive account of the factors behind Japanese foreign policy on global climate change, including the domestic factors (e.g. political leadership, economic performance, pressure from interest groups, public opinion, etc) and international forces (e.g. US­Japan relations, the withdrawal of the US).

● Ohta’s paper argueed that Japan’s rationale for taking initiatives in environmental diplomacy was generated by its quest to make a non­military contribution to international affairs (as constrained by the Japanese constitution), together with domestic political framework (political leadership, bureaucratic politics, NGOs, public opinion). In addition, international political (e.g. Japan­US relationship) and economic events (e.g. Japan’s bubble economy and Asian financial crisis) acted as catalysts.

● Tiberghien argued that Japanese’s decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol could not be explained by balance of interest (alone), but more because of “embedded symbolism” ­ LDP’s decision to pursue global environmental leadership, reinforced by the media and public opinion. The name “Kyoto Protocol” had also become a national symbol and Japan’s environmental policy identity.

In general, I find that the factors behind Japan’s foreign policy on environment as identified by both articles rather similar and consistent. When reading both articles together, Japan’s initial efforts to become the global environmental leader as well as its subsequent slack were
well­explained.

Japan’s Role in Kyoto Protocol

On Japan’s initial efforts towards Kyoto Protocol, Ohta explained that it stemmed from Japan’s quest to make a non­military contribution (as constrained by the Japanese constitution) to international affairs. Both articles have identified that Japan had the ideal domestic and political factors (together with strong public support) in the earlier years that supported its initial efforts. Although in the later years, the international and domestic contexts were not favourable for Japan to promote the Kyoto agreement, Japan has taken painful and costly measures to continue the Kyoto Protocol.

In addition, both articles also pointed out that the name of “Kyoto Protocol” (bearing the name of a city of Japan) made it indispensable for Japanese government to take a global environmental leadership role in tackling the global environmental problem, including its decision to step forward with the EU and the (small part) of the rest of the world, despite the US has decided to withdraw from it.

Ratification vs Implementation

Tiberghien also pointed out that ratification was quite different from implementation, which I find this point interesting. Ratification is highly visible with tangible reputation, while implementation is the outcome of countless lower­level battles, which are quite technical and hidden from the public eyes. Indeed, the post­ratification battle over implementation would be a more difficult process. I wonder how the reduction targets could be implemented by distributing the targets among different domestic industries, in particular the stakeholders are in fact private business enterprises (which make it difficult for the Government to impose mandatory targets on them).

Conclusion

All in all, the role and efforts of Japan in negotiating the Kyoto Protocol and the subsequent implementation battle could serve as a good case study for International Political Economy (IPE), since many factors came into play and all were crucial in affecting Japan’s decision and approach to the matter.

However, I am disappointed (or feel sad) to realise how these domestic factors could actually affect a country’s participation in environmental affairs. Ideally, each country should cooperate to solve this global problem for social justice (i.e. what ought to be done). In particular, protection of the global environment should be an issue with less political controversy (as compared to, for example, Japan’s participation in the UN Peacekeeping Operations). But in reality, each country’s effort on environmental affairs is dependent on the interplay of various international / domestic factors and economic gains. As a result, it would continue to be a difficult battle for the world to work together to resolve the problem of global climate change.


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