Cultivating Talented Individuals

GIARI & Economic Integration and Sustainability

Cultivating Talented Individuals:Support Scheme:Investigative Research Assistance (for Assistant Professors)

Jemma KIM / New Orleans, LA, USA


Affiliation: GSAPS/GIARI
Name: Jemma KIM
Itinerary: 2/15/2010 - 2/22/2010 (Month/Date/Year)

Destination (Name of city and country)

New Orleans, LA, USA

Research objectives

2010 International Studies Association(ISA) Annual Convention
"Japanese Policies to Shape its Regional and Global Economic Relationships"
  • Title: The Domestic Politics of Japanese FTA Policy: An Analysis of the JMFTA Negotiation Process

Research project

Despite the diffusion of free trade agreements in the 1990's, in what is often referred to as "the third wave" of FTAs, Japan has generally held a negative attitude toward bilateral FTAs, lauding instead the benefits of the WTO. However, in a dramatic turnaround, the Japanese government today is actively pursuing bilateral FTAs.

Why and how did these policy changes occur? Drawing on the JMFTA negotiation process as a case study, this article explores the sources of change in Japan's domestic policy thinking, in particular the shift in patterns of policy development, by empirically examining key actors, their preferences, and the dynamism of patterns between conflict and cooperation among these actors.


This paper addresses Japanese trade policy shift factors, by analyzing the political process behind the conclusion of the FTA between Japan and Mexico. The FTA between the two countries was the first to deal with an issue which is also crucial in future FTA discussions with Asian countries; namely the issue of tariff reductions on agricultural commodities. In this context, the FTA between Japan and Mexico can be considered as the first substantive negotiation.

The main argument of this paper is that "inner adjustment" among agriculture-related groups (MAFF, JA-Zenchu, Zoku-giin ) was the main factor in driving Japan's trade policy shift, rather than inter-ministry conflict, as previously understood in conventional literatures. For methodology, the findings in this paper are mainly based on interviews with FTA policymakers within the Japanese government (including officials from MOFA, METI, MAFF) and key interest groups (such as Keidanren and JA-Zenchu). Previous research on FTA policy only focused largely on literature review and policy theory in analyzing this issue; relying too much on secondary sources such as newspapers. The character of this paper would be the use of interviews with key figures in related parties in the government and from other interest groups regarding FTA policy, as the main analytical method.

This paper proceed as follows: I firstly provided an overview of Japanese FTA policy literature. I focused specifically on the current situation and characteristics of FTAs in East Asia and previous studies regarding the promoting factors and hindering factors of Japanese FTA policy. Secondly, based upon these studies, I presented the theoretical framework ? the "Inner Adjustment Model". Thirdly, applying the framework and drawing on the JMFTA as a case study, I explored how the agriculture problem has been dealt with in Japan's domestic policy, in particular the shift in patterns of policy development, by empirically examining key actor's preference. By doing this, I demonstrated how the Inner Adjustment Model could effectively explain the change in Japan's FTA policy, and explain how such change consequently lead to the Japanese government adopting the principle of promoting an East Asian FTA and further the establishment of an East Asian Community.

Significantly, I found, based on several interviews (with MITI, MOFA, and MAFF bureaucrats), that Yoshio Yatsu, former Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries played a key role in persuading agriculture-related groups to come to a consensus on FTA. Yatsu was able to convince these groups that while protection of the domestic agriculture industry was important, East Asia is an emerging and growing market for Japan, and that it is in the national interest for the agriculture problem to be solved to promote future FTAs with Asian countries and to advance the idea of an East Asian FTA in the future. Though Mexico is not an East Asian country, the FTA with Mexico was a key milestone in Japanese FTA Policy, because it is the first FTA that dealt with the agriculture problem thoroughly. As such, the value of concluding Japan-Mexico was very high.

The significance of the JMFTA was further evident after its conclusion when the MAFF announced "Green-Asia EPA Promoting Strategy(midorino ajia EPA suisin senryaku)" which declared clearly Japan's intention to advance FTAs with Asian countries. This consequently led to the inclusion of EPAs into the Japanese government's "Basic Policy (honebuto housing)", which declared Japanese government principle of promoting an East Asia FTA, and furthering the East Asia Community.