Developing Australia-Japan cooperation in the management of the “three Cs”
Amid global uncertainties, it is vital to strengthen the bonds of like-minded nations to face these challenges. In the Indo-Pacific region, cooperation between Australia and Japan has been where the action is. These key allies of the United States face three defining challenges – the three Cs – climate change, China and Covid-19.
In recent decades, the relationship between Australia and Japan has been built on economic ties, but more recently the two countries have been layers of cooperation channels to collectively respond to an increasingly balkanized politico-economic landscape. It is important to note that this trend has been quite linear despite their respective leadership rides over the past decade. Why has Australia-Japan cooperation been so critical? And, given the decision of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga abrupt resignation, how can the new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida provide a common response to these challenges with Australia?
The first concern is climate change. The decades-long economic partnership in the energy sector is an essential platform for the complementary relationship. Despite the rapidly growing energy demand in the region, Australia has been the largest and most stable supplier of energy and key minerals to Japan. Japan is the Northern Territory’s largest energy export destination, with 10% of its gas imported future from Darwin Harbor.
Australia and Japan must now take up the new challenge of a rapidly decarbonizing world. While Australia’s latest greenhouse gas emissions Mark the lowest level still is always’at the back of the pack among developed countries‘. Australia has just joined other countries to commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Japan made therefore in October 2020. The transition of the two countries to carbon neutrality will have serious consequences on the structure of their trade.
In this context, Japan and Australia are determined to determine how they can collaborate and mutually benefit from the low carbon energy transition. Under them partnership on decarbonisation through technology, the two countries have identified hydrogen and ammonia as potentially significant opportunities and led the launch of a regional platform set a standard for carbon capture, use and storage technologies.
The second challenge is their complex relationship with China. After overtaking Japan as the world’s second-largest economy in 2010, China has emerged as the world’s dominant trading partner, quickly taking the number one trading position with more than 130 countries. For Australia and Japan, China’s share of their exports is around 40% and 20%, respectively.
While deepening economic interdependence with China has led to economic growth, it has not led to political stability. China’s trade and investment network has intensified interdependence in Asia and beyond, but it has also raised great uncertainties and made geoeconomic tools more influential. Japan fought against China’s ban on rare earth element exports ten years ago (and installed the case at the World Trade Organization) and, more recently, Australia suffers from economic coercion (which he brings to the WTO) and foreign interference.
Australia and Japan have shown considerable commitment to the WTO-backed international trade regime and the broader post-war world order. The two countries have also worked together to maintain a credible rules-based multilateral trading system and share the view that some WTO reforms are needed to maintain this system.
At the regional level, despite the deteriorate Sino-Australian bilateral relationship, they managed to conclude the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) in November 2020, which sets, among other things, new provisions in terms of data governance. Although the scope of these rules is practically limited, it could at least lengthen the common ground for controlling cross-border data flows. The formation of a digital trade order is a new front in setting standards for advanced technologies, and the recent application joining the digital economy partnership agreement between Singapore, Chile and New Zealand would stimulate competition to establish rules.
In this context, China offers adherence to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (which Japan recovered with the help of Australia and other members after the withdrawal of the United States under former President Donald Trump) will also be a test for Australia and Japan in securing a high trade order. quality.
On the security front, the tensions are more glaring. Faced with assertive pressure from China in the region, Japan has called on Australia to help lead the resistance both directly and as part of the Quad with the United States and India. Australia and Japan have also come to share a similar positions and have taken a series of national countermeasures in the name of national security.
Both countries have excluded Chinese telecommunications companies from their 5G networks. Japan’s recently enacted land restriction law and tighter controls on investment in Australia point in the same direction. Australia’s experience of the NT government’s 99-year lease of Darwin’s port to a Chinese company, which is currently under review, provides a useful lesson. While a similar situation is this is unlikely to happen in Japan, Tokyo can usefully learn from its lessons.
Last but not least, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the threat landscape around the world. Australia and Japan were among the pioneers in dealing with the health crisis, taking tough approaches to border control that few other countries have taken. Australia has benefited from being an island ‘fortress‘and put in place a series of ad hoc lockdowns, while some overcrowded areas of Japan were subjected to constant strict measures, even during the Tokyo Olympics. Australia is now bracing for the expected increase in cases that reopening its borders to international travelers will bring.
Built on a depth economic relation, solid from person to person connections, close political ties and a special strategic partnership, Australia and Japan have become mutually indispensable. Despite the revolving door policy in both countries, the relationship will be crucial in sustaining the rules-based world order as it comes under new pressures.