Is Japan up to leading WTO reform?

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

If the goal of Japan’s G20 presidency in 2019 is merely to get through the summit in June with a business-as-usual approach, at best it would be a lost opportunity. At worst, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Japanese officials could find the global economic order collapsing around them on their watch or end up throwing a hospital pass to the next G20 hosts, Saudi Arabia.

World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo meets with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo, Japan, 8 November 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Issei Kato).

Tensions between China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies, are disrupting the global economy. Even if the two reach some kind of bilateral settlement, there’s likely to be systemic damage — most likely they’ll do a deal outside of the established rules that undermines the multilateral trading system. Managing the rise of China is difficult enough for the global community but with the multilateral order under threat from President Donald Trump’s America First agenda, it is worse.

Japan is the world’s third-largest economy and one of America’s most important allies. It shares one of the world’s largest bilateral economic relationships with its neighbour China. That puts Japan in a unique if excruciatingly difficult position to navigate the defining challenges the global community faces today.

Simply getting through the Osaka G20 Summit is …continue reading