Japan and Australia strengthen ties ahead of Trump’s inauguration
17 January 2017
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on Saturday amid the uncertainty and tensions being generated throughout the region by the inauguration of Donald Trump as US president this week.
Both countries have been central to the Obama administration’s aggressive “pivot to Asia” against China over the past five years. Trump and his incoming administration have already indicated their intention to step up the US confrontation with China—on the economic front through trade war measures and on the military front through an accelerated expansion of the US armed forces, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.
In doing so, however, Trump is cutting across the plans and interests of Washington’s allies in Asia—Australia and Japan. Trump has already announced that on day one in office he will set in motion the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP)—an economic bloc directed against China.
During their talks, Turnbull and Abe reaffirmed their support for the TPP, saying in a joint statement that it remained an indispensible priority because of the “significant economic and strategic benefits that it offers.” Turnbull told the media: “We’ve confirmed our commitment to the rule of law, free trade, open markets in our region, the foundation on which our prosperity and that of billions of other people in the region depends.”
The TPP was never about “free trade.” It was fashioned by the Obama administration, with the backing of Japan and Australia, as the means for countering China’s growing economic influence in Asia and globally. As Obama declared, it was to ensure that the US, not China,…