Continue to expand cooperation to enhance economic security

Beijing and Moscow have intensified unfair pressure in economic sectors. Tokyo and Washington should take the lead in building an economic order based on fair rules.

In Washington, the Japanese and U.S. foreign and economic ministers have held the inaugural meeting of the Japan-U.S. Economic Policy Consultative Committee, the so-called economic 2-plus-2.

The ministers worked out a joint statement that expresses their resolve to present a vision of a “rules-based international economic order.” They also agreed to work together on research and development for next-generation semiconductors.

China has supported infrastructure growth in developing countries under its Belt and Road Initiative, a vision to create a huge economic zone. However, caution is spreading that this initiative is a debt trap for developing nations.

Russia has used its exports of natural resources as a means of intimidation and retaliation against economic sanctions imposed on Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine.

It is significant that Japan and the United States sent out strong messages to curb such acts through their joint statement.

The 2-plus-2 framework was originally for foreign and defense ministers to discuss security issues. During a Japan-U.S. summit in January, it was decided to expand this framework to economic issues.

The move reflects the increasing possibility of private-sector technologies, such as artificial intelligence and quantum cryptography communication, being used for military purposes, making economy and security inseparable. Japan and the United States must steadily strengthen their cooperation.

Regarding next-generation semiconductors, Japan said that it will establish a new research and development hub, involving universities and government-affiliated organizations, and call for U.S. institutions to participate in this initiative.

Advanced semiconductors with extremely thin circuit lines are critical materials not only for economic activities but also for national security as they are used in the production of items such as quantum computers, fighter jets and missiles. Production of such chips is dependent on Taiwan, which currently accounts for about 90% of the world’s total output.

If there is an emergency in Taiwan, it is assumed that procurement of semiconductors will immediately be hindered. It is hoped that Japan and the United States will accelerate research and development to build stable supply chains for semiconductors.

The ministers also agreed to promote the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), a U.S.-led economic initiative. Japan needs to act as a bridge between other Asian countries and the United States to counter China, which is attempting to take the lead in setting trade rules in Asia.

On energy security, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda said at a press conference that he conveyed to the U.S. side Japan’s intentions to preserve its interests in Sakhalin-2, an oil and natural gas project in the Russian Far East in which Japanese companies are stakeholders.

Japan gained understanding from the U.S. side after Hagiuda explained that if Japan withdraws from the project, it would mean ceding the rights to a third country such as China and allowing Russia to reap a massive profit as a result. It is hoped that Tokyo and Washington will continue to meticulously communicate with each other.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 31, 2022)