Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

Who is paying to de-carbonise the global economy?

Author: Eric Knight, Oxford

Financing the transformation of the global economy may yet prove to be a key lever in brokering agreement between developed and developing countries on emission caps and targets in the current international climate negotiations. China, India, and a number of other Asian countries in the G77 are increasingly focusing on multilateral finance for technology transfer and development as a cornerstone to any agreement.

In a report released at the Bonn negotiations in June this year, the Expert Group on Technology Transfer (EGTT) reported that current estimated global expenditure on commercialising mitigation technologies is between US$77-164 billion annually. Read more…

Japan: the DPJ wins as the GRU weakens the LDP machine

Author: Joel Rathus, Adelaide University and Meiji University

As Michael Cucek wrote last week, Japan has witnessed the subdued brutality of the Democratic Party of Japan’s (DPJ) Government Revitalisation Unit (GRU) taking back 1.4 trillion Yen from various extremely unhappy NGOs and bureaucrats. This process of creative destruction is rarely seen in Japan, and while comparisons to the Meiji Restoration by some DPJ politicians are exaggerations, the fact is that Japan is witnessing a real shake up in power distribution. And as in any such shake up, there are winners and losers.

In this case the winners are the DPJ over the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Ministry of Finance over the other Ministries. Let me talk about the DPJ first. Read more…

Copenhagen and beyond – Weekly editorial

Author: Peter Drysdale

Prime Minister Rudd’s prominence in the Copenhagen meeting on climate change has not stopped the political process in Australia from staggering decisively backward from the introduction of an emissions trading scheme in Australia, as the rest of the world inches towards an international agreement to cut carbon output. Although it’s unlikely that Copenhagen will produce that agreement, the announcement last week of US targets and Chinese initiatives in addition to the participation of both President Obama and Prime Minister Wen in the meeting enhances the prospect of movement towards one. Stephen Howes, in this week’s lead, notes that many in Australia, including the stalling forces in the opposition, argue that we should ‘wait for Copenhagen’ before legislating an emissions trading scheme. This approach, he suggests, though apparently grounded in hard-nosed realism, is naïve. Read more…

Japan’s subsidy culture on trial

Government guarantees: technology to avert climate change?

The politics of climate change: Waiting for Copenhagen

Author: Stephen Howes, ANU

In the second assessment report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), back in 1995, the scientists of the world concluded only that the ‘balance of evidence’ supported a link between human action and global warming. This was the slender basis on which the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated.

In the IPCC’s third assessment report of 2001, the scientists were more confident saying that it was ‘likely’ that there was a link: they even attached a probability assessment to this statement – 60 to 90 per cent. The fourth IPCC assessment report of 2007 increased this probability to ‘very likely’: greater than 90 per cent. Read more…

Open government in Japan

Author: Tobias Harris

Amidst all the changes introduced by the Hatoyama government since it took office in September, it is easy to forget what may be the most revolutionary change of all: transparent government.

The most visible example thus far is the Government Revitalization Unit’s (GRU) comprehensive review of government spending programs, ably chronicled by Michael Cucek here and here. Read more…

Hatoyama and the US alliance

Author: Leszek Buszynski, International University Japan

Yukio Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) was elected to office by a landslide in the 30 August elections. Japanese voters rejected the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) which had fielded ineffective leaders since Junichiro Koizumi resigned in 2006, the last being the hapless Taro Aso. The new government declared its intention to conduct an autonomous foreign policy and has called for a ‘close and equal alliance’ with the US, a promise repeated in Hatoyama’s Diet speech of 29 October.

In this spirit, Hatoyama has pressed for the removal of the US Marine Corps Air Station from Futenma base in Okinawa, which goes entirely against the 2006 agreement with the US. Read more…

Can the TPP Resolve the ‘Noodle Bowl’ Problem?

Author: John Ravenhill, ANU

The proliferation of preferential trade agreements (PTA) in the Asia-Pacific region in the last decade has been primarily a top-down affair, driven by governments acting as much for political-strategic as for economic considerations.

The consequence has been a succession of poor quality, ‘trade-lite’, agreements, towards which the business community, the supposed beneficiary of such arrangements, has been largely indifferent. Read more…

Tamogami, Palin, and populist conservatisms

Author: Tobias Harris, MIT

It has been just over a year since General Tamogami Toshio (ASDF-ret.), then the chief of staff of Japan’s Air Self Defence Forces, was drummed out of the service after he was awarded the top prize in an essay contest sponsored by the APA Group for his essay “Was Japan an Aggressor Nation?”

In the year since he became a household name, Tamogami has become a leading figure of the Japanese right, as I expected following his appearance before the House of Councillors foreign and defence affairs committee. According to his website, by year’s end he will have given more than seventy lectures across Japan. Read more…

U.S. trade policy in Asia: Going for the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Author: Deborah Elms, Temasek Foundation Centre for Trade & Negotiations, Singapore

The ambiguity in U.S. President Barack Obama’s November 13th statement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks mirrors the somewhat torturous path in American trade policy to date on this topic. In his speech in Tokyo, President Obama said, ‘The United States will also be engaging with the Trans-Pacific partnership countries with the goal of shaping a regional agreement that will have broad-based membership and the high standards worthy of a 21st century trade agreement.’

Listeners in the audience could be forgiven for confusion. Was the United States in or out? What did the President mean by ‘engage’?

Read more…

Government guarantees: technology to avert climate change?

Author: Ann Henderson-Sellers, Macquarie University

Today climate change is no longer about ‘if’ but about ‘how bad’. There is no way that the large and unexpected jumps frequently being experienced could be occurring in an unchanging climate. For example, in Australia over the past 24 months we have seen: 15 consecutive days above 35˚C in Adelaide in 2008, seven days more than the previous heatwave record; the terrible Bushfire Black Saturday set a new Melbourne temperature record of 46.4˚C, more than 3 degrees hotter than any previous February record; and the 7 hottest August days ever recorded at Windorah in western Queensland all occurred this year, 2009.

The Copenhagen COP (the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, number 15) meeting is supposed to finalise an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol to avert ‘dangerous’ climatic change. Read more…

Japan’s subsidy culture on trial

Author: Michael Cucek

For the past week the citizens of Japan have been the stunned witnesses of an unfamiliar phenomenon: a new regime addressing the excesses of its predecessor. In clockwork proceedings of subdued brutality, the grimly-named Government Revitalization Unit (GRU) has been reviewing the budgetary support of 447 programs, a fraction of the thicket of government supported programs that had proliferated over the fifty-four year rule of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

For those watching the live webcasts or the excerpts broadcast on nightly television, the proceedings have been the first solid evidence that the government is serious about bringing change to Japan. Read more…

Malaysia’s economic future

Author: Gregore Lopez, ANU

On November 9, Mr. Najib Razak, Malaysia’s Prime Minister and Finance Minister, announced at the Multimedia Super Corridor implementation council meeting that Malaysia was aiming for an average annual GDP grow rate of nine per cent until 2020. Realising later that the numbers were absurd, the government went into damage control mode.

Immediately, the local media edited the premier’s statement to six per cent. The next day, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, in charge of the Economic Planning Unit, Read more…

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Author: Ann Capling, University of Melbourne

At last week’s APEC meeting, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced that the Obama Administration would participate in negotiations to establish a new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. This announcement means that the TPP negotiations – involving Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam – will now go forward, with the first round of negotiations to be held in Australia in early 2010.

The TPP is intended to be a high quality, comprehensive regional trade agreement that is consistent with APEC and WTO principles. Read more…

Beating Kim’s game of ‘blackmail diplomacy’

Author: Andrei Lankov, Kookmin University

North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons, but it makes sense for the United States to continue talks now with a more realistic understanding of the North’s strategies and goals.

President Barack Obama arrived in Seoul last Wednesday for a summit meeting with President Lee Myung-bak. No doubt, North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme will play a major role in the forthcoming negotiations. Read more…