During a visit to London, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May in which they agreed the two nations would closely cooperate in working to maintain the free trade system.
The British government will soon seek parliamentary approval for the draft Brexit deal reached with the EU, but chances are high that the accord will be voted down. May is in a politically difficult position.
Abe’s visit at this time seems to have been aimed at offering May a helping hand, thereby averting turmoil. It is of no small significance for Abe to show his intention, both domestically and internationally, of attaching importance to Britain as a strategic partner in Europe, with an eye on the situation following that country’s withdrawal from the EU.
Abe asked May to avert a no-deal exit, telling her that he thoroughly supports the draft deal. May expressed her gratitude.
If a no-deal withdrawal becomes a reality, it could lead to stagnation in the distribution and production of goods, causing the British economy to shrink. About 1,000 Japanese companies operating in Britain would inevitably be affected. The British government needs to implement carefully thought-out measures to minimise the confusion.
With the post-Brexit situation in mind, the two leaders agreed to build a new economic relationship between their nations. Based on the Japan-EU economic partnership agreement set to take effect in February, the two countries will consider forming a new bilateral trade accord.
Britain has shown its eagerness to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact. Japan should actively support the British move. There are expectations that doing so will encourage the administration of US President Donald Trump to reverse itself regarding its inclination toward protectionism.
The joint statement agreed upon by the two leaders included measures regarding the area of security, including expanding joint drills between the Self-Defence Forces and the British military, as well as dispatching British Navy vessels to Japan. There is great significance to deepening Japan-UK security cooperatio, and both are US allies.
To realise a free and open Indo-Pacific, a goal advocated by both Japan and the United States, it is indispensable to cooperate not only with Australia and India but Britain and other European countries as well.
It is important to urge China, a nation that has continued to pursue coercive maritime advances, to restrain itself in this respect through multilateral cooperation.
Before going to Britain, Abe visited the Netherlands, where he held talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The two agreed on a policy of further expanding trade and investment, based on the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement. They also confirmed they would cooperate in a summit meeting of Group of 20 major countries and regions that will take place in Osaka in June.
The G20 meeting must be made to properly function as a framework for the promotion of an international coordination system. As the chair of the summit, Japan needs to devise carefully thought-out preparations and strategy.