Approval of the UK’s TPP Membership and Six Eyes
By Ikuzo Kobayashi, President of Salaam Association
From the Summer Issue of the electronic “Salaam Quarterly Bulletin”, No.46, Aug 2023
On July 16, 2023, during the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) ministerial-level meeting held in New Zealand, the TPP Committee formally approved the United Kingdom’s membership. This is the first approval of membership since the TPP entered into force in December 2018. The UK’s accession extends the TPP from the Asia-Pacific region to Europe. The 12-member framework, including the U.K., will increase its share of global GDP from 12% to 15%.
Almost 10 years ago, on March 15, then Prime Minister Abe announced Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiations and expressed his enthusiasm for the project, saying that it was a “plan for the nation’s centennial”. At that time, there was a heightened concern about whether participation in the TPP would harm the national interest. However, it is clear that the national interest should not be discussed only from an economic standpoint, especially now in the midst of the ongoing war in Ukraine. National security, both military and diplomatic, is a national interest of the highest priority. From this perspective, the UK’s accession to the TPP is good news that should be welcomed as an event that will spur Japan to join the Six Eyes.
TPP is an advanced free trade agreement
[Illustration] TPP member countries and countries/regions applying to join the TPP = JIJI.COM2023.7.16
THE SANKEI NEWS 2023/7/13
Representatives of the signatory countries pose for a commemorative photo after the approval of the UK’s TPP membership. On the left side is Shigeyuki Goto, Minister of Economic Revitalization, who has chaired the working group for the membership negotiations. = July 16, Aukland, New Zealand (Photo from JIJI.COM2023.7.16)
On July 16, the U.K.’s entry into the TPP, was welcomed as a step that brings great benefit to participating countries. Member countries will now go through the necessary domestic procedures, and the U.K. will become a party to the TPP next year. Shigeyuki Goto, Minister of State for Economic Revitalization, who has chaired the working group for the accession negotiations, said, “We will continue to lead the process of the U.K.’s accession.”
The TPP was signed by 12 countries including the U.S. in February 2016, but the U.S. withdrew from the partnership in January 2017 after President Trump took office. The reason for the U.S. withdrawal was that the U.S. prioritized the FOIP (Free and Open Indo-Pacific Initiative) and QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), which are more focused on security, in order to counter China’s One Belt One Road.
The GDP boost from the U.K. joining the TPP is not so large this time. This is because the U.K. already has bilateral EPAs (Economic Partnership Agreements) with the major TPP member countries. “For the U.K., too, there are virtually no additional benefits to be gained from joining the TPP,” Bill Emmott, former editor-in-chief of the British magazine The Economist, said in an interview with the Sekai Nippo. Although TPP, as a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, welcomes the U.K.’s membership, it should expect more benefits from the U.K.’s security role in the Pacific Rim than from the expected expansion of its economic zone into Europe.
A maritime economic zone depends on safe navigation on the high seas
Maintaining and ensuring the safety, security, and freedom of navigation of vessels in Japan’s territorial waters, EEZ (Economic Exclusive Zone), and high seas is a serious issue for Japan. The threat has been invisible for some time, but the first incident that Japan faced occurred when a Chinese fishing boat rammed a Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel patrolling the Senkaku Islands in September 2010. Since then, there has been a gradual escalation of tensions over the years, with Chinese maritime police vessels violating territorial waters in the Senkaku Islands area, navigating in the adjacent waters, and chasing after Japanese fishing vessels.
Furthermore, these are followed by the sea lane strategy that China is trying to build connecting the Taiwan Strait, Vasi Strait, man-made islands in the South China Sea, and a “necklace of pearls”.
Former Prime Minister Abe gave a keynote speech at TICAD in Kenya in August 2016, and proposed the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” initiative. This vision aims to promote free economic and social activities that extend from East Africa to the Indo-Pacific region and East Asia and achieve prosperity for the entire region.
Meanwhile, “the realization of universal values such as the rule of law, freedom of navigation, the promotion and establishment of free trade, and democracy” are essential to the development of the free and open Indo-Pacific as an “international public good.”
The U.S. explicitly calls Japan a “pillar in the construction of Indo-Pacific security”
The United States made a major decision in 2017 under President Trump regarding the security of the Indo-Pacific region. Simply put, it realized the mistakes of its policy of engagement with China and switched to a policy of engagement with Japan. For 30 years, the U.S. had the illusion that “China would become a country that allows freedom and democracy when it became prosperous.” But it was a mistake. A rich, technologically advanced China has become convinced that Chinese-style democracy (that is authoritarian and totalitarian) is superior to freedom and democracy, and has frankly recognized the reality that it is about to seize global hegemony. The U.S. came to recognize this reality. This recognition is not a self-righteous recognition of President Trump or of the Republican Party alone. It is also the recognition shared by the Democratic Party and the majority of the American people.
G20 Osaka Summit and Japan-U.S.-India Summit, June 28, 2019 (Photo courtesy of Cabinet Public Relations Office)
Thus, the Trump administration, with its domestic economy in shambles, saw no choice but to withdraw from the TPP, an economic partnership agreement, and prioritized countermeasures against China’s maritime expansion toward India and the Pacific. Japan was seen as a country that could be expected to provide leadership in freedom, democracy, and law and order to stop China’s expansion, aggressive behavior, and oppressive rule. Japan is expected to play a political and economic role in the QUAD among the four nations of the United States, UK, Japan, and Australia. Japan must also cooperate with South Korea and India to defend against a Taiwan contingency. A Taiwan contingency is a Japan contingency.
The U.K. has shifted its policy from pro-China by an emphasis on Japan
QUEEN ELIZABETH Carrier Strike Group during an exercise (FlyTeam Online News, delivery date: April 2, 2021)
On July 11-12, 2021, the Ministry of Defense announced that a joint anti-piracy exercise was conducted in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia with the British Carrier Strike Group. From Japan, the destroyer Setogiri and P-3C patrol aircraft participated, and from the Royal Navy, the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth with a frigate and a supply ship participated, along with a U.S. Navy destroyer, and a Dutch Navy frigate. The British Carrier Strike Force conducted operations against Islamic militants (IS-affiliated armed groups) as it passed through the Middle East region. After deploying for training exercises with Indian forces, the ships called at Singapore and conducted a “freedom of navigation” demonstration in the South China Sea before calling at Yokosuka. British Defense Minister Wallace talked about the long-term outlook for defense, security, and foreign policy and stated an intention to “maintain a permanent presence in the Indo-Pacific region.” (Excerpts from Salaam Quarterly No. 38, August 2021)
On October 23, 2020, the Japanese and British governments signed the EPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement), which will enter into force on January 1, 2021. The agreement is a result of the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU, but the U.K. had already expressed a strong desire to join the TPP back then. In addition, in an angry reaction to China’s disregard of the 1984 UK-China Joint Declaration that guaranteed the one country, two systems in Hong Kong, the U.K.’s Johnson administration has abandoned its pro-China policy and emphasized the importance of Japan as a partner in the Asia-Pacific region. The U.K.’s return to Asia is a welcome move for Japan’s national interests.
Former British Prime Minister Blair (photo provided) = THE SANKEI NEWS2020.8.4
The five countries that make up the Five Eyes are the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The Five Eyes have been a five-nation framework for information sharing based on the UKUSA Agreement (United Kingdom-United States of America Agreement) since 1956.
It has played a role in sharing confidential information across national frameworks.
In a telephone interview with the Sankei Shimbun on August 3, 2020, then British Prime Minister Blair, who was Prime Minister when Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, said, “China has become even more authoritarian in recent years. Japan’s participation in the Five Eyes should be considered.”
The UK’s entry into the TPP is not a matter of prioritizing economic national interests. It is clearly seen as part of strengthening the security of the Indo-Pacific region with China in mind. In the midst of this trend, representatives of six countries – the Five Eyes and Japan – held a separate meeting during the OECD (Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation) Ministerial Meeting held in Paris on June 7-8 this year and issued the following declaration.
It is the“Joint Declaration Against Trade-Related Economic Coercion and Non-Market Policies and Practices.”
G7 Hiroshima Summit -Day 3- (Session)
Japan is lagging behind in a security clearance system that strictly controls qualifications for handling classified information, but it is necessary to proactively accept the fact that “the time has come for Japan to overcome issues of economic security as a major area of concern.”
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