The Image of Regional Cooperation Promoted by Japan - Paper Example

Paper Type:  Report
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1682 Words
Date:  2022-06-22


Regional cooperation is essential for economic growth, advancement of democracy and the promotion of local and international peace (Kugiel, Cooray, & Wickramaratne, 2013). Also, regional cooperation enables countries to address common problems and to hasten human development in all aspects of health, education and social welfare. The success of the European Union (EU) pushed countries in other parts of the world such as Japan to enhance their efforts in establishing new regional organizations and strengthening existing economic institutions. Moreover, Japan's increased interaction with the United States of America (USA) influenced its interest in promoting regional cooperation to manage financial crises in the Asian region which have been witnessed since 1980's. Japan has made great initiatives to support developing countries of East Asia and to strengthen its ties with developed countries such as the USA. The success of Japan's efforts in promoting regional cooperation can be seen in the progress of major economic organizations such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) which was formed in 1989 (Patrick, 2005). This paper analyzes Japan's efforts in promoting the image of regional cooperation and explains how Japan has been successful in its regional integration initiatives.

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Japan's Efforts in Promoting Regional Cooperation

Japan is the only big economy to be involved in numerous agreements including Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the China-Japan-Korea Free Trade Area (CJK FTA) with the aim of improving economic and security relations in East Asia (Terada, 2014). The economies of East Asian countries including Japan have been multiplying since the formation of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and other regional institutions (Patrick, 2005). This can be attributed to Japan's efforts to strengthen the economies of developing countries in East Asia through government-led economic and political policies. The most significant contribution of Japan towards regional cooperation and economic integration has been achieved through trade policies.

Japanese political leaders have been highly involved in spearheading initiatives to create economic cooperation within the Asian region. According to Patrick (2005), Japanese Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira had a great vision of improving security, economic and political relationships between the countries of East Asia, America, and South Pacific. Although the visionary Prime Minister Ohira died in 1980 before his vision could be realized, today the people of Japan and the East Asian region feel proud of the initiatives he started. Another Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been targeting increased relations between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which is evident from the Prime Minister's idea of hosting the Japan-ASEAN summit in December 2013 (Sukma and Soeya, 2015).

Japan's Efforts in Promoting Peace and Security

According to Sukma and Soeya, (2015) Japan has been interested in strengthening cooperation with the ASEAN community to enhance civil aviation safety. Security is vital for economic integration which is Japan's principal interest in her partnership with ASEAN member countries. Furthermore, Japan targeted advancement of trade and investments by entering into negotiations with ASEAN member states termed as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and which comprised of the sixteen member countries of ASEAN (Sukma and Soeya, 2015). It seems that Japan targeted improving economic integration in the East Asian region by entering into agreements with the ASEAN member countries.

Japan does not only concentrate on building economic partnerships with Asian countries and other nations of the world, but it also engages in other policies aimed at promoting regional cooperation. Japan's foreign aid program was started after World War II to help independent developing countries in Asia build their damaged economy. It was beneficial for Japan at the end of the program because Japanese companies were able to access the markets of developing Asia countries. Furthermore, Japan promoted economic development in neighboring countries through the Official Development Assistance (ODA) policy which enabled the Japanese government to provide financial assistance to developing countries in Asia (Japan's Economic Integration, n.d). According to Ohno (2013), Japan created a single aid organization known as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) with a view of integrating aid and other financial assistance plans. Therefore, Japan tries to enhance regional peace and cooperation by helping other nations achieve economic stability. Japan can be labeled as a leading donor of financial aid for developing countries.

Japan’s Policies of Regional Integration

Countries usually rely on specific frameworks and strategies initiated by political leaders, diplomats and other important individuals such as revolutionists to create partnerships and enter into agreements with other nations with the aim of achieving regional cooperation. In the case of Japan, political leaders have been instrumental in establishing policies and frameworks to enhance foreign relations. According to Terada (2014), bilateralism was the major policy framework used by Japan to enter into agreements between other countries concerning security and economic improvement. However, these agreements did not provide significant benefits to Japan. According to research, Japan and the USA had disputes regarding the market for their automobile products which could be easily solved through bilateral trade agreements. These problems would be solved by promoting regional cooperation which would ensure that Japan accessed a wide market for major products such as automobiles and electronics.

Bilateral Trade Agreements

According to Urata (2007), Japan's first free trade area (FTA) was enacted in December 2002, and it involved Singapore only. It was formally known as the Japan-Singapore Economic Partnership Agreement (JSEPA) and did not target just the elimination of tariff and non-tariff trade barriers but also targeted liberalization of foreign direct investments (FDI). According to Urata (2007), liberalization was also aimed in other sectors including human resources, tourism and information and communications technology (ICT). Japan continued with its bilateral agreements policy by signing FTAs with Malaysia in 2006 (Urata, 2007). The Japanese government viewed FTAs as an excellent opportunity to promote sustainable economic growth within East Asia and also to help local enterprises to access foreign markets. Japan needed to increase cooperation with neighboring countries and therefore, shifting from bilateral trade policies to multilateral approach was appropriate.


However, since the late 1990s, the government of Japan came up with the multilateralism approach in dealing with international cooperation (Terada, 2014). The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which is an agreement between Japan and countries such as Australia, Mexico, Chile, and Malaysia among other countries in Asia, South America and North America is a perfect example of a multilateral approach towards regional integration. Japan seems to be aware of competition from developed countries, and therefore, there was a need to intensify multilateral cooperation. A report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (2014), Japan joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations to improve its domestic economy and to promote the Asia-Pacific economic cooperation.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) theory that resulted from the multilateral approach to regional integration was meant to promote deep cooperation among countries in a vast region but not just between nations which border one another. According to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (2014), the TPP included regulations on finance, intellectual property, e-commerce, agricultural policy among other essential disciplines. Furthermore, the multilateralism approach allowed Japan to participate in negotiations leading to the ASEAN-centered Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The RCEP is viewed as a new regional free trade agreement which would massively improve the region's economy.

Benefits of Japan’s Efforts Towards Regional Integration

It is evident that the multilateral approach augments the efforts made by previous government regimes in Japan. Japan's bilateral and multilateral trade policies contributed to the growth of its automobile, information technology and electronics industries (Centre for Strategic and International Studies, 2014). A study by Japan's Economic Integration (n.d) indicates that fifty percent of Japan's total trade is conducted with neighboring countries. This shows that Japan rely heavily on neighboring nations to export surplus manufactured products and also to import resources for the country's expanding manufacturing industry. For instance, Japan relies heavily on Asian countries for natural resources primarily natural gas and food while it provides financial assistance to those countries (Sato, 2014). This shows that Japan and ASEAN countries mutually benefit from enhanced economic integration.

According to Sato (2014), a single common market and production base which had been envisioned by the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) became a reality. Japan's effort to ensure that the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is formed would be rewarded with an expanded market for her manufactured products. Also, the ASEAN member countries would benefit from the free movement of labor and investment capital within the region. This generally increases productivity, and the member countries can export more goods and services to other nations outside their economic zone. ASEAN economic cooperation leads to the expansion of production networks because of reduced transportation and border-transaction costs (Sato, 2014). The East Asians economies have been described as the fastest growing region in the world, and it will continue in the foreseeable future (Patrick, 2005). Japan benefits significantly from the common market created by the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) given that it has numerous industries which indicates a higher production of manufactured goods.

Regional trading blocs usually have a massive impact on the lives of people. For instance, free movement of products and people within the ASEAN region can lead to improved living standards. The Japanese and other people from neighboring countries migrate to seek jobs and to settle in better places within the East Asian area. Governments play a significant role in ensuring that migrant workers and their families are safe. Sato (2014) explains that Japan benefited from the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) because most of Japan's multinational enterprises were moved to neighboring ASEAN member states where labor was more affordable. People in developing ASEAN countries would also benefit by having manufactured products closer to them. Furthermore, removal of tariff barriers leads to low cost of goods and services and the free flow of goods from one member country to another. When regional integration is fully achieved in Asia, living standards of the Japanese people and other Asian nations will significantly improve.

Economic integration envisioned by Japan and other Asian countries has led to the innovative industries in the East Asia region. When a common market is created, there are too many companies competing to market their product which eliminates monopoly. According to Sato (2014), the larger ASEAN market promotes specializa...

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