Policy Update 019 Special Interview

Alan A. Powell Award-Winner and Former RIETI Consulting Fellow KAWASAKI Kenichi

Consulting Fellow

Former RIETI Consulting Fellow Kenichi Kawasaki received the Alan A. Powell Award in June 2005 for his achievements in GTAP (Global Trade Analysis Project) activities.
RIETI recently spoke with Dr. Kawasaki about GTAP, its applications, and the hurdles he faced in promoting GTAP activities.

RIETI: Congratulations on receiving the Alan A. Powell Award. How did you feel when you learned about the award?

Kawasaki: Thanks to everyone's support, I feel my 10 years of hard work was finally recognized. My son said, "Isn't it more like acknowledgement of the long time you spent working rather than the result of an outstanding thesis? It sounds like you're being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize rather than the Nobel Prize for Economics." For me, this is a once-in-a-lifetime honor, as if I have entered the "Hall of Fame" for global economic model analysis. Friends from around the world congratulated me and I am truly happy.

RIETI: It seems there are a lot of people who do not know what GTAP is about. Can you explain what GTAP is and what its applications are?

Kawasaki: GTAP (the Global Trade Analysis Project) was established in 1993. The organization creates global economic databases, Computable General Equilibrium model of global trade, and various software packages. Because these tools allow research to be conducted based on common data and models, this helps reduce the workload of individual researchers, makes it easier to compare research results, and helps contribute to improving the quantitative analysis of global economic issues. GTAP is now a standard tool used around the world to analyze the economic impact of trade and investment liberalization, for example. GTAP has also helped build a global network of about 4,000 researchers (250 from Japan) worldwide.

The Global Trade Analysis Center at Purdue University in the United States coordinates the project, while global organizations (the WTO, UNCTAD, OECD, the World Bank and others) and representatives of national public and academic organizations in Japan, the United States, Europe and Australia have formed a consortium to support the project's activities. It is a truly global organization made up of members from a broad range of international organizations.

RIETI: Please tell us about your activities at GTAP.

Kawasaki: I started working at GTAP in 1995 when I was assigned a research project by APEC's Economic Committee. At first I was not sure how to conduct my research but the help I received from old friends at OECD and experts from the WTO allowed me to relax and embark on the project.

Since then, I have conducted economic impact analyses using the GTAP model and provided critical quantitative information used in making policy decisions. For example, I calculated the macroeconomic impact at the start of FTA negotiations with ASEAN nations, Korea and Mexico. The estimates of the effect of FTAs on Japan's GDP growth, for example, are mostly mine and are often referred to in government reports.

In the "Basic Policies for Economic and Fiscal Management and Structural Reform 2005" adopted at the Cabinet meeting on June 21, it was decided to take advantage of the economic impact analyses of FTAs. Japan is gradually beginning to accept economic policy impact analysis and I hope it takes root here.

In regard to GTAP applications, I have also worked on spreading the word by holding lectures at the University of Tokyo and other universities, as well as lectures in Indonesia and Thailand as a JICA expert. I receive inquiries from students and fellow researchers about the use of GTAP. E-mail has made it possible for people from Asian nations to inquire about GTAP.

RIETI: What hurdles did you face in promoting GTAP?

Kawasaki: I have enjoyed my work on GTAP but since I have a regular job in public service, I use the evenings and weekends for GTAP-related activities and I am careful not to let them disrupt my day job. Even if there is an important GTAP meeting, I can't attend if it conflicts with my day job.

Just as my GTAP-related activities became heavier, I have also taken on more responsibilities in my day job and it is becoming difficult to continue with GTAP as a "hobby." I hope I will be able to concentrate on economic model analysis as an occupation.

RIETI: What do you think was the key to your receiving the award?

Kawasaki: Put simply, I think it was my 10 years of involvement with GTAP activities. In Japan, government officials are transferred periodically and you don't have the opportunity to be in charge of one project for a long time. As a Consulting Fellow at RIETI, there were no transfers and I was able to continue my GTAP activities. One key to being acknowledged in the international community is to be around long enough for people to remember your face.

More specifically, aside from the activities I've already mentioned, it seems my participation in the consortium as a representative of both the Cabinet Office and RIETI, as well as publishing a GTAP textbook in Japanese,* contributed to my selection for the award.

*Ouyou ippan kinkou moderu no kiso to ouyou: keizai kouzou kaikaku no shimyureshon bunseki (Applications of the computable general equilibrium model-simulation analysis on trade liberalization and regulatory reform) Nihon Hyoronsha, Nov. 1999.

RIETI: Please tell us about your future research plans.

Kawasaki: GTAP organizes an international conference every year with about 200 people from around the world participating. Previously it has been held in places like the United States, Australia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Taiwan. Next year it will be held in Ethiopia.

I can't compare it to the Olympics or the World Cup, but there are battles among nations to get on to organizational committees and to secure operational budgets. I hope we can hold a GTAP conference in Japan in the future.

Related link:
The awards ceremony can be viewed at the GTAP website.

The original text in Japanese was posted on June 29, 2005.

July 27, 2005

Interview conducted by Toko Tanimoto, chief online editor, on June 27, 2005.

July 27, 2005