Category Archives: BUSINESS

Traps of a trade system without trust

Author: Stephen Olson, Hinrich Foundation

The global trade system is under greater stress than at any other time since its inception. The most significant trade war in almost a century lumbers on, tit-for-tat trade restrictions are becoming increasingly commonplace, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) appears incapable of restoring order.

Tokyo stocks plummets below the 21000-mark for the first time in two weeks on the Tokyo StockExchange market on 25 March 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Natsuki Sakai/AFLO).

Discussion on how things have gone so far off-track has focused on a number of factors, including the frequent violation of trade rules, and the unilateral approach to trade actions taken by the current US administration. While these factors are undoubtedly playing a prominent role, there is another issue — one that does not appear in the text of any trade agreement or on the negotiating agenda of any set of trade talks — arguably of equal if not greater importance.

The issue is trust.

For most of the post-war era, there has been a strong sense of trust among trade partners that they shared a deep philosophical commitment to free trade and a rules-based trade system. The nations that came together in Bretton Woods in 1948 to lay the foundation for an open trade system believed that their individual national interests would be best served by a cooperative trade system. This would be …continue reading


Kamakura modernist museum to re-open this June

After a lengthy refurbishment and retrofit, the former Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, will officially re-open as the Kamakura Bunkakan Tsurugaoka Museum on June 8. The iconic modernist building was designed by Junzo Sakakura (1901-1969) and opened in 1951 as Japan’s first public museum of modern art.

The museum sits within the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine. It closed its doors in March 2016, with the Prefecture planning to demolish it and end the land lease with the Shrine. However, news of its planned demolition resulted in an uproar from those wanting to protect the architecturally significant building.

Renovations started in September 2017 and were completed last month. While the appearance has been preserved, significant earthquake retrofitting and repairs were required. The bracing for the ground floor walls was originally built into the Oya-stone walls. These walls had to be removed and replaced with steel walls with a facade of Oya stone tiles overlaid to recreate the original design. One design change of note was to the inner courtyard which previously had a Kokeshi doll sculpture by Isamu Noguchi. The black stone pavers, a later addition, were replaced with exposed aggregate and stone-inlaid concrete that is true to the original design. Retrofitting and renovations were estimated to cost approximately 210 million Yen.

About the architect

Sakakura worked in Le Corbusier’s atelier in Paris for seven years, obtaining the position of studio chief. He returned to Japan in 1936 and opened his own architectural practice in 1940. One of his first works to come out of his studio was the Iihashi Residence built in 1941. The house was located in Setagaya, Tokyo, before being relocated in 2007 to its current location in Karuizawa where it operates as the Domaine de Mikuni restaurant. In 1953 he designed artist Taro Okamoto’s residence in Omotesando. …continue reading


China, Russia and the United States contest a new world order

Author: Dmitri Trenin, Carnegie Moscow Center

The United States has recently entered a period of great-power rivalry with China and confrontation with Russia. The China–Russia rapprochement has simultaneously acquired the quality of an entente: a basic proximity of worldviews and close coordination of policies short of a formal alliance.

A military officer adjusts a Russian flag ahead of a welcome ceremony hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping for Russian President Vladimir Putin outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 8 June 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee).

This realignment is due to the inability to construct an inclusive world order that accommodates all major players after the Cold War. It also demonstrates the limits of single-power dominance — the Pax Americana — that could only last as long as the United States remained willing to carry the burden and other main actors acquiesced to its hegemony. The historical norm of competition among great powers is back. US–China and US–Russia rivalries will probably grow in intensity until a new balance is established.

Both the rivalries and the entente are highly asymmetrical. The United States, China, and Russia have vastly different capabilities and resources. They belong in the …continue reading

Take a look at just about any science fiction film. They don’t use dollars, they use some universal currency that can be transferred at the click of a button. Today we’re seeing the emergence of digital currency. What are Bitcoins and are they the future. That’s one conversation taking place in Asia… now.

What are Bitcoins and are they the future?

Take a look at just about any science fiction film. They don’t use dollars, they use some universal currency that can be transferred at the click of a button. Today we’re seeing the emergence of digital currency. What are Bitcoins and are they the future. That’s one conversation taking place in Asia… now.

Saturday | April 11, 2015

I love traveling. I’ve been all across Asia and it’s my mission during the winter to vacate the cold and take refuge in Southeast Asia. But the thing I hate most about traveling is dealing with money.

I’m not talking about the expense of traveling, I’m talking about having to deal with switching currencies when crossing borders. 

Dollars to won to yen to pesos to… you get the idea.

What I loved about science fiction was this notion of a universal currency embraced by the world community. We’re a long way off from that; however we are seeing the emergence of various digital currencies.

The most famous of which is the bitcoin.

Joining me via Skype on this week’s Asia Now podcast is Chris Williams, Meetup organizer for the Seoul Bitcoin Center. We discuss what bitcoins are, their history, the controversy behind them, and where things might lead in the future.

After the podcast, please let me know what you think about bitcoins. Are they the currency of the future or just a fad?

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Source: ACCJ Journal


Outlook Positive, but Weaker

By Brandi Goode

The 26th Foreign Chambers in Japan Business Confidence Survey was conducted over 10 days at the end of October. About 300 responses were received, of which the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s members accounted for some 30 percent.

Forty percent of the respondents are from North America, and 60 percent from Europe. Most participating companies are involved in service industries or sales and trading, and have been in Japan for over 20 years.

Overall, foreign firms remain bullish about Japan’s economy, although they are less positive than in the previous two surveys. When asked about the economic forecast for the country over the next 12 months, growth was projected, but at a much lower level than in the previous survey in spring 2014. The index is now +.42, compared with +.70 in the spring.

Sales and trading businesses lost significant confidence, with the fall index (+.25) coming in more than 50 percent lower than the spring projection (+.63). Some 55 percent of respondents in this industry category projected “no change” or “some decline” in their operations over the next year.

The reported performance of companies surveyed continued to improve, but at a lower rate than …continue reading