Japan’s entrance into theTrans-Pacific Partnership free-trade treaty negotiations is arguably the most important event in U.S. relations with the Asia-Pacific in the last decade. This is because the sustainability of long-term American strategic power in Asia and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attempts to resuscitate the Japanese economy are entirely co-dependent. Without an economically resurgent Japan, Asia will be increasingly sucked away from the U.S. and into the Chinese economic and strategic orbit. Washington’s Asia pivotis not complete without a Japan-powered TPP, which both supports its growing Asia-Pacific political and security alliance and acts as an economic containment treaty against China.
Just as the Soviet Union relied on a massive military arsenal for its power, Chinese influence derives overwhelmingly from its economy. Until now, the U.S. has had relatively few economic levers in its Asia pivot, with the exception of free trade agreements (FTAs) with its firmest friends: Australia, Singapore and Korea. Instead, Washington has focused mainly on political and military efforts, whether improving frosty relations with former foes such as Vietnam or deploying additional regional ballistic missile defense resources. READ MORE