RIETI Report February 2013

Japan's Zero-sum Thinking and Cringing Mentality as Seen in the Fuss over the TPP

While expectations are running high on a growth strategy now being developed under the new government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, it is clear that there will be no growth without joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In the past two years, however, various arguments against Japan's participation in the TPP have been put forth. In the February issue of the RIETI Report, we present Senior Fellow Kazuhito Yamashita's column "Japan's Zero-sum Thinking and Cringing Mentality as Seen in the Fuss over the TPP" addressing this pressing topic.

Yamashita picks apart all of the common arguments voiced in Japan against joining the TPP and gives his strong rebuttals against each of these. From these groundless arguments, a negative self-image of Japan as a sorry country with no bargaining power or a zero-sum mentality--the fear of losing vested interests that could have been protected by regulations--can be clearly drawn. Yamashita continues the discussion with Japan's agriculture, an area which is particularly feared to have its interests undermined by the TPP, and how crucial the TPP actually is to sustain it especially in light of Japan's population aging and declining, as looking to overseas markets will be a preferable solution over a shrinking pie due to zero-sum thinking. If Japan is to maintain domestic agriculture, there is no choice but to push forward trade liberalization and seek the removal of tariffs by other countries through the TPP and other means. Finally, zero-sum thinking does not generate benefits for Japan, and Yamashita describes a bleak economic scenario that could happen to Japan if it fails to join the TPP.

This month's featured article

Japan's Zero-sum Thinking and Cringing Mentality as Seen in the Fuss over the TPP

YAMASHITA KazuhitoSenior Fellow, RIETI

While expectations are running high on a growth strategy, which is now being developed under the new government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, one thing clear is that there will be no growth without joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In the past two years, however, various arguments against Japan's participation in the TPP have been put forth.

Opponents say: "There is no telling whether or not Japan should join the TPP negotiations because sufficient information is not available."

However, countries are still in the midst of negotiations, and no one can tell how the TPP will turn out eventually. If we participate now, we can make efforts to change the course of negotiations so as to avoid unfavorable results for Japan. Although we cannot predict the stock prices printed in newspapers a year from now, we might be able to change the content of a front page article on the conclusion of the TPP by joining the negotiations.

To read the full text
http://www.rieti.go.jp/en/columns/s13_0011.html

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