Free Trade Champion? Australian Views of the US Trade Crusade Against Japan
US trade policymakers claim that single-handed US efforts to increase Japanese imports of foreign goods and services are benefiting exporters worldwide. Many observers disagree, arguing instead that US unilateralism is severely undermining the multilateral world trading system. Opinion is divided: while officials in the European Union and Japan have been openly critical of aggressive US trade policies, smaller countries such as Australia seem to be taking a more nuanced view of the ‘free trade champion’. This paper explores Australian views of US market-opening measures aimed at Japan, drawing on a series of interviews with Australian government officials and business leaders. It considers how US policies have impacted on Australia’s export opportunities in Japan and what policy tools are available to Australia for influencing the outcomes of US–Japan negotiations. Two opposing views are reported: first, that Australia should counter perceived US moves towards bilaterally managed trade and second that Australia should join with the US in its attempts to open Japanese markets. ‘We are asking Japan to open its markets. That will increase choice, quality, and competition for Japanese consumers of autos and auto parts. It will reduce prices for Japanese consumers of autos and auto parts. These steps will obviously be helpful to Japan’s trading partners who are trying to sell into those markets, and will obviously be helpful, we believe, to bring down the Japanese current account surplus which has been a persistent problem for the world economy.’
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