Academic journal article Asia - Pacific Issues

Japan and the United States: Helping Each Other Cope with Change

Academic journal article Asia - Pacific Issues

Japan and the United States: Helping Each Other Cope with Change

Article excerpt

FOR DECADES East Asia has been growing as a powerhouse of the global economy. Several East Asian nations have established themselves as the world's preeminent manufacturers of many capital goods and consumer products, as major players on global financial Issues, and as leaders in the development and application of new technologies.

No nation has done more to assure Asian security and encourage regional vitality than the United States. We extended a helping hand to Japan after the war. We have supplied a reliable security shield behind which our friends and allies could recover their strength and pursue economic development. We provided generous aid and technical assistance to Asian friends practicing "catch up capitalism." Above all, our open market and our voracious appetite for imports has been an indispensable catalyst for Asia's export-led growth.

Americans, of course, benefit enormously from the stability and prosperity of Asia. Our transpacific trade exceeds $250 billion a year, and by the mid-90s may double the size of our trans-Atlantic commerce. Yet our relative share of Asia's prosperity has been declining. Our trade with the region has not kept up with the growth of intra-regional trade. Our investment in the area has grown only modestly compared with that of Japan, Taiwan and others. Our official assistance levels have slowed to a trickle, while Japan continues to allocate 60-70 percent of its growing official development assistance to regional neighbors, much of it aimed at securing contracts for Japanese companies to build local infrastructure.

Despite the size of our transpacific trade, only about half of our Fortune 500 companies have established a presence in Japan, the world's second largest market. And judging from the relative infrequency of Congressional visits to Tokyo, I suspect more of our legislators traveled to Lithuania last year than visited Japan. Such inattentiveness by Americans toward Asia is troubling, for it has real consequences.

The Concerns of Japan

Japan, of course, tops the list of Asian nations demanding our attention. Our relationship with Japan has experienced its share of difficulties in recent years. There have been well-publicized frictions over trade, and the Gulf War exposed some differences in our perspectives about international peacekeeping. Naysayers in both countries have come out of the woodwork, trading accusations and questioning the durability of our partnership.

Commentators in both countries have wondered whether our alliance can survive the disappearance of the Soviet threat which provoked it. Others discount trade frictions as the inevitable byproduct of our growing interdependence. Most agree that if our relationship is to endure, there must be, as in any marriage that endures, shared commitment, "give and take" on both sides, and a readiness to adjust to new circumstances.

Certainly our governments recognize the importance of the U.S.-Japan relationship. How could they not? Our alliance remains a keystone of regional stability. We have developed the largest transoceanic bilateral trade in history. Our cultural and educational exchanges enrich the lives of both our peoples. Our governments understand that very few international issues can be resolved without active U.S.-Japan collaboration. And the proliferation of strategic alliances among our respective corporations enables us to share the costs and risks of developing and marketing new high technology products.

An effective relationship with Washington remains the foundation of Japanese foreign policy. That said, subtle changes in Japanese thinking about the United States have taken place in recent years. We need to take these into account if we are to adapt our relationship to changing realities.

I meet a wide cross-section of thoughtful Japanese in the course of my duties and have been hearing a variety of concerns about America, and about Japan's relationship with us. …

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