Trade deal won't heal US-Japan relations

Back from the brink - but who blinked first? As details of the agreement on access for cars and car parts into the Japanese market emerged yesterday, it became clear that the US had given most ground. As well it might, since the US was fighting on indefensible territory with its gun-toting threat of unilateral sanctions in defiance of the multilateral principles of the World Trade Organisation.

The Americans have achieved some concessions. The Japanese have committed themselves to dealing with the regulatory barrier of repair garages. Foreign access to dealerships will be increased - but through a private rather than governmental initiative.

But the main bone of contention was the American demand for numerical targets for US sales of car components into the Japanese market. Here there is no doubt who prevailed: the Japanese stood firm on their refusal to commit the government to hard numbers. The US had to use projections of purchases from the Japanese car companies to stand up their claim of "victory".

As for the estimated increase in Japanese car production in North America envisaged in the joint announcement, this is a change the car companies would almost certainly have been compelled to make in any case. With the yen at its present stratospheric level, they have to move production out of Japan.

So much for the details, but this was a dispute that signalled a wider discord between the US and Japan. The Americans have served notice on the 50-year-long relationship in which security and broader international interests were paramount. They believe the Japanese have abused this by taking advantage of open US markets while keeping theirs closed.

The Japanese, for their part, have approached the negotiations with an unexpected readiness to engage in confrontation. Despite the political paralysis that prevails in Japan, there is an active debate now taking place about whether the country should tilt its strategic and economic policies towards an Asia-first policy.

Seen in this light, the resolution of the trade dispute, though welcome, seems unlikely to inaugurate a serious improvement in the relationship between the world's two largest economies. The trade imbalances that have so soured relations will eventually succumb to the extraordinary appreciation of the yen. But the wrenching change this is causing in Japan may make the Japanese even less compliant in future.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific