The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

Shinzo Abe's Legacy

Michelle Liou

Posted on September 13, 2020 20:53

4 users

On August 28, Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving Prime Minister, resigned due to health concerns. In Abe's four terms as Prime Minister, what did he accomplish and what does he leave behind?

On August 28, Shinzo Abe announced his resignation as Prime Minister of Japan due to a recurrence of ulcerative colitis, prematurely ending his fourth term as Japan's leader. Although Shinzo Abe served as Japan's prime minister from 2006 to 2007, his legacy on Japan’s foreign and domestic policies was most firmly imprinted in his three terms following 2012.

Abe's most important legacy was arguably his administration's foreign economic policy. In the sphere of international trade, he most notably secured international free trade deals and salvaged the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Signed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in July 2018, the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement became the world's largest bilateral free trade deal, encompassing nearly one-third of global GDP and 635 million people. This trade deal sent a powerful signal that two of the biggest economies, Japan and the European Union, staunchly opposed protectionism.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership was a promising trade partnership between the United States and eleven other Asia-Pacific countries. However, the TPP was on the verge of collapsing when President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement in 2017. Despite the widespread belief that the partnership wouldn't succeed without the U.S., Shinzo Abe convinced the eleven countries to reconsider and garnered all eleven signatures for the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a remake of the original TPP. Following Abe's lead, Japan drifted further away from protectionist policies and embraced a free-market economy, setting a precedent for other Asian countries to follow.

Shinzo Abe has also been influential in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, an informal four-way strategic forum between the United States, Japan, Australia, and India. These four democracies have common interests in maintaining stability in the Indo-Pacific, protecting freedom of navigation, and defending a rules-based economic system. Shinzo Abe, the architect of the Quad, first proposed this quadrilateral format for democratic partners to convene in his book Utsukushii Kunihe (Toward a Beautiful Country). Since the Quad was reestablished in 2017, Shinzo Abe's amicable and close relationships with the leaders of all three countries have served as a crucial binding force for the current Quad. In a way, Shinzo Abe was both the visionary and the facilitator of an increasingly relevant dialogue.

Shinzo Abe re-established Japan's international standing, strengthened relations with key allies and laid the groundwork for cooperation and diplomacy in years to come. Nevertheless, his departure leaves major problems unresolved: Long-standing territorial disputes remain a thorn in Japanese ties with ChinaRussia, and South Korea, and Japan's economy continues to suffer from low growth that has only worsened ever since the pandemic.

Given today's unstable international climate and accumulating tensions and threats, Abe's successor will have to not only take on these challenges but also uphold Shinzo Abe's legacy — maintaining Japan's robust alliances, continuing its status as a champion of free trade and signaling its dedication to Indo-Pacific stability and security.

Michelle Liou

Posted on September 13, 2020 20:53

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Source: The Guardian
6

Clues on how to handle Trump may emerge as Japanese PM becomes first leader to have face-to-face meeting with US president-elect...

THE LATEST THINKING

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest