28 Oct 2016
Japan, China and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a Strategic Tool of Choice
RCAPS Working Paper Series
By Benny TEH Cheng Guan, School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia
This paper discusses the role of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement as a strategic tool for Japan in pursuing its national and regional interests. While it is undeniable that the economic benefits to be accrued from the agreement in terms of boosting Japan’s economic growth are important and well argued, Tokyo’s motivation to engage the TPP is driven more by its geopolitical and strategic calculations. The former serves middle to long term ambition while the latter takes on short to middle term goals. Centering on the latter, the paper discusses three major motivations:
- the use of the TPP to exert innovation and drive change at home in maintaining its strategic competitiveness;
- the perceived importance of the TPP as a rule setter for regional economic cooperation; and
- the significance of the TPP in balancing Beijing’s strategic influence in the region. China’s move to fortify its relations with neighboring countries through its own initiatives in an unending tussle with the US could see the formation of two opposing trade blocs in the Asia Pacific region. Japan can play a significant role in bridging the gap and contribute to the possibility of convergence.