Thursday, May 28, 2009

The First Attendance to ACCJ Government Relations Committee

I attended the Government Relations Committee for the first time on Tuesday, May 26. This committee is chaired by Mr. Ira Wolf, Japan Representative of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. As I mentioned in the previous post on the CSR Committee, light breakfast was served at this meeting as well.

One of the key agendas at the meeting was the Diet Doorknock, which is lobbying activities to Japanese legislators. The American Chambers of Commerce has been exercising influences through the annual Diet Doorknock. The Government Relations Committee explores small scale and more frequent approaches to the Japanese diet, in addition to the regular doorknock. These doorknocks will be focused on more specific issues.

I leaned that the number of English speaking staff at the Japanese diet is still insufficient, and the language barrier is a hurdle to pursue more frequent and small scaled doorknock. I think it is a pity that Japanese legislators are still inward-looking, and not well adapted to the era of globalism. I hope Nagatacho (Japanese Capitol Hill, or Westminster) will evolve more civilized, as it happened during the Meiji modernization.

The most important point is to find the right Diet members for the doorknock, whether general US-Japanese relations or more specific issues.

I need to understand activities of the Government Relations Committee, furthermore, and hopefully, get involved in policymaking processes. In any case, I must understand the Committee. That is the most important point for a beginner.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Congress Victory in India by US, UK, and Indian Media

As a result of this election, Manmohan Singh will continue to stay as the prime minister. Despite Daniel Twining, former Policy Assistant to Senator John McCain, comments that staunch partnership with the United States is a policy consensus in India beyond partisan politics, the victory of the Congress Party is good news for the War on Terror in South Asia and foreign investment in India. Let me review news reports and commentaries by American, British, and Indian media.

The election result has some implications to Indian politics. Regional parties and leftists dwindled substantially. Professor Makesh Rangarajan at Delhi University points out that the pendulum has swung away from dependence on small parties since 1991 to the surge of the Congress Party this election (“Indian Election Sidelines Regional Parties, Strengthens Congress Party”; VOA News, 20 May 2009). The Congress Party has achieved success through tandem leadership by Sonia Gandhi, Italian-born mother of assumed future Prime Minister Raul Gandhi, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (“India's 'odd couple' take up reins of power”; AFP; May 22, 2009). In addition, voters are concerned with Hindu nationalist BJP, the primary opposition to the Congress. The Indian public does not want Hindu-Muslim antagonism (“Congress comes back”; Economist; May 16, 2009).

Chart and Map: (“Singh when you're winning”; Economist; May 21, 2009)

Domestic stability contributes to better foreign relations. The Obama administration regards India continually led by the Congress Party as an invaluable ally in the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan, nuclear non-proliferation, climate change, and free trade (“US can't expect too much, too soon from India: US media”; Indian Express; May 21, 2009).

Regarding the War on Terror, the second Singh administration will give a priority to security and Hindu-Muslim reconciliation after the Mumbai terrorist attack (“Indian government pledges security focus”; Guardian; 20 May 2009). Prime Minister Singh is a Sikh, as distinctive turban and his surname implies. He is in a good position to promote tolerance between these two religions, which is a key to improve relations with Pakistan.

Foreign investors in India feel satisfied with the result. Their primary concern was not the rise of Hindu nationalist BJP, as there is no substantial difference in economic policy between the Congress and BJP. Investors’ main fear was an indecisive election. Exit polls had suggested a tight race between Congress and the BJP. There was even a chance of a stalemate that would have left the way open for an economically regressive government of the Third Front, a newly formed group led by the Communists (“India's election delivers investors much needed stability”; Daily Telegraph; 18 May 2009). Kamal Nath, a senior leader of the Congress Party, says that the new administration will pursue further economic decentralization in finance, retail, real estate, and labor (“Election Results Fuel Optimism for Economic Reforms in India”; Washington Post, May 21, 2009).

Many analysts interpret that Indian voters support economic liberalization by Manmohan Singh. The Prime Minister faces no serious challenges to implement the US-Indian nuclear deal and pursue energy security in return. However, the second Singh administration needs to stimulate domestic demand and save the poor in view of the global financial crisis, along with pursuing pro-market economic policy (“Success puts India's new ruling class under pressure”; Independent; 18 May 2009).

Indian voters have given credit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and the Obama administration must not ruin a positive legacy of the Bush administration. This blog will continue to keep an eye on India, particularly in relation to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is Green Intervention Capitalism or Socialism?: The Case of British Superbike

Currently, I am on the Green Transportation team of the Green Market Forum at the American Chambers of Commerce. As environmental awareness grows, some governments consider green interventions to enhance competitiveness of their countries in the global market. US President Barack Obama launches his idea of the Green New Deal to overturn the Bush administration’s policy. Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso is also keen on keeping up with green trends in America and Europe. But is this capitalism or socialism?

The case of British electric superbike will give us a clue to this question. Britain has developed an electric racing bike named TTX01 through its governmental organization UKTI (UK Trade & Investment) and a professional group called the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology). This breakthrough technology paves the way to diversify electric vehicles. “Electric vehicles are seen as crucial in reducing carbon emissions from the UK's transport sector, which accounts for around one-quarter of the UK's total emissions” (“World's fastest all-electric motorbike unveiled at show”; Guardian; 27 November 2008). In addition, this motorbike is lighter than similar-sized conventional one (“Look Out for the TTX01 Electric GP Motorbike”; Electric Bikee; 7 February 2009), and it hardly makes noise (“125mph electric bike ready to burn rubber”; Guardian; 28 November 2008).

According to TTXGP, a consortium founded by UKTI and the IET, this motorcycle will compete in the race in the Isle of Man on June 12 this year.

UKTI was founded in 1997 under the Blair administration. Its mission is to enhance the competitiveness of companies in the UK through overseas trade and investments; and attract a continuing high level of quality foreign direct investment. Tony Blair is a centrist who believes in the market economy, but not laissez faire capitalism. The superbike project is pursued with Blairite economic and environmental policy.

Diehard conservatives in the United States may say a project like this is socialistic. However, this is not completely socialist, because the government sponsors research and development, but not the race itself.

Remember! All Soviet athletes in the past were Ivan Drago type of élites who enjoyed generous sponsorship and privileges offered by the Red Government. But there are no Ivan Drago monsters in this race.

TTXGP project has extensive policy implications to capitalism in the era of environmentalism and anti-neoliberalism. Tony Blair explored the Third Way when he was the prime minister, and Gordon Brown succeeds this. Barack Obama may explore governmental interventions something similar to this project. Will he turn America into socialism, or show the model case for government-business partnerships?

Friday, May 08, 2009

The General Election in India and Its Impacts on US-Indian Relations

The general election in India is currently in progress, and the result will be announced on May 16. It takes a while to count the vote as India is the largest democracy in the world. To begin with, let me review some news reports.

In this election, Indian voters aspire their own Hope of the Change, as they are frustrated with two established parties, which are the ruling Congress Party and opposition nationalist BJP. Independent candidates such as Mona Shah of Mumbai are drawing enthusiastic attention among Indian grassroots by denouncing corruption among political establishments (“Independent Candidates Rising in India Politics”; VOA News; 30 April 2009). In view of the Mumbai terrorist attack last November, the trend of Muslim separatists in Kashmir is a critical focus (“Indians Vote in Third Round of Staggered General Election”; VOA News; 30 April 2009).

The Congress Party and BJP are competing severely to win the majority seat in populous provinces (“Congress, BJP may spring surprises in Uttar Pradesh”; Hindustan Times; May 5, 2009). Market analysts of foreign investors in India are worried that Congress, which leads the current coalition, or the main national opposition Bharatiya Janata Party may have to cede policy influence to smaller caste-based or regional parties to form a government (“Poll worries to moderate brisk”; Express Buzz; 4 May 2009). This election has been under tight security control due to the danger posed by Islamic militants. Neither ruling Congress nor main opposition BJP are expected to win the majority by themselves, and small parties will have a key role to found a cabinet after this election (“Delhi's turn in Indian election”; BBC News; 7 May 2009).

Regarding the US-Indian nuclear deal, a Pakistani newspaper says “India is mortgaged to the US through Jewish Lobby, which was the major force behind the said Indo-US nuclear deal. While Congress’ Muslim-hatred is hidden under cosmetic surgery, BJP is openly in bed with the Zionist regime in the occupied Palestine” (“India is mortgaged to Uncle Sam”; Pakistan Daily News; 4 May 2009). In view of such criticism to the nuclear deal from Indian leftists, BJP demanded that the Obama administration maintain tax incentives to outsourcing companies in India to implement the strategic agreement with the United States (“BJP to link N-deal execution to US outsourcing move”; Times of India; 6 May 2009).

How do experts see the election and the nuclear deal? The Heritage Foundation organized an event, entitled “Indian Elections and Beyond: Refocusing U.S.-India Engagement”, on May 4. The video of this event is shown at the top of this post. The following panelists attended this forum.

Mohan Guruswamy
Chairman and Founder, Centre for Policy Alternatives, India

Walter Andersen
Senior Adjunct Professor of South Asia Studies, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

Daniel Twining
Senior Fellow for Asia, German Marshall Fund of the United States

Lisa Curtis
Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center, Heritage Foundation

There is no doubt that the strategic partnership with India is a vital and positive legacy of the Bush administration (See the post on the lecture by Nicholas Burns.). However, Indian officials are concerned that the Obama administration passes India, and more willing to engage Afghanistan and Pakistan. Despite such worries, Special Ambassador Richard Holbrooke expresses his commitment to develop ties with India.

First, Mohan Guruswamy outlined political parties and election politics in India. Despite impressive career in domestic and international bureaucracy and Ph. D. degree from Cambridge, current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lacks grassroots popularity. The Gandhi family enjoys deep rooted charisma among the public.

As India is a diversified society in terms of religion, ethnicity, caste, and local interests, Gurunsway said that multiparty coalition cabinet is inevitable. He foresees that the relation with the United States will slow down, because oppositions are critical to pro-American Singh administration. Stalinist Communists object to encircling China through alliance with America. Muslim parties are anti-Israel. The largest opposition BJP is the forefront opposition to the US-Indian nuclear deal as they regard the agreement an erosion of Indian national sovereignty.

Professor Walter Andersen narrated political party history of India since independence. In the early days, Indian politics was dominated by English educated urban élite and governed by strongly centralized bureaucracy. In addition, most of the prime ministers came from Brahmin class.

Such elitist and authoritarian political climate has changed since late 1980s as the rise of disadvantaged people leads democracy in India. The poor shares the majority of Indian voters, and they are more likely to vote than the rich. Today, major parties need to accommodate lower caste Hindus and religious minorities to form their cabinet.

Even though, governmental control on election campaign is strict. Banners, posters, and even exit polls are not permitted. This makes the result of this election extremely unpredictable.

Finally, Daniel Twining briefed Indian foreign policy vis-à-vis the United States, Pakistan, and China.

Twining says that there is a political consensus to pursue close ties with the United States for the rise of India and further commitment to the international club. He insists that the United States must develop a wider framework to manage global agenda with India, such as climate change and trade. The US-India global partnership must keep up with the framework between China and the United States.

Indo-Pakistani relations are turbulent now, as the Mumbai terrorist attack has provoked the growth of Islamic radicals in India.

As to China, current relationship with this country is called the Cold Peace. While mutual trade is growing, China feels itself encircled with the US-Indian nuclear deal and strategic partnership.

Among numerous issues commented by experts at this event, I regard two pints are critical. Growing influence of Islamic radicals must be defeated, and India is expected to play positive roles to help political reforms in Pakistan and Afghanistan. How to accommodate India’s aspiration for the rise in the global community in close relations with the United States is vital in this century for global peace and security, and also for prosperous world economy.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Ex Prime Minister Tony Blair Addresses the Case for Military Intervention against Extremists

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a lecture, entitled “Faith and Globalization” at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on April 22. In this lecture, Former Prime Minister Blair argued against criticism to the Anglo-American intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, and said that the use of force had become more necessary than ever (“Force must be an option – Blair”; BBC News; 23 April 2009).

I talk of this event, because the global public does not understand the threat of Islamic radicalism and repressive regimes. Also, some opinion leaders distract attentions from those threats to past European colonialism and American global hegemony. Tony Blair tells they are entirely wrong. This lecture presents significant policy implications to US allies in Europe and Japan, because all of us face common dangers.

As a leader of conscience and global respect, Former Prime Minister Blair played a crucial role to legitimize the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, while leftist media criticized the Cowboy Diplomacy by President-then George W. Bush.

Tony Blair articulated “I still believe that those who oppress and brutalize their citizens are better put out of power than kept in it.” He believes that such oppressive regimes be toppled through military intervention by leading democracies if necessary.

The threat is widespread throughout the Middle East and the war is prolonged “Because it is based on an ideology and because its roots are deep, so our strategy for victory has to be broader, more comprehensive but also more sharply defined.”

In addition, Blair refuted widespread misunderstandings that British colonialism in the past and the foundation of Israel are the cause of Middle East instability. To the contrary, he pointed out that deep root of extremism must be weakened through active intervention.

In addition to military intervention, Blair stressed that the West should help empowerment of Islamic societies, and endorse moderate Muslims, in order to eradicate the roots of extremism.

Regarding Pakistan whose commitment to the War on Terror is questioned currently, Blair told it preferable to assist social reform, instead of military action.

For detail, you can read the text, and listen to the audio from those links. Global liberals were overjoyed with the inauguration of President Barack Obama, but they must understand the nature of the War on Terror. It does not change whether the President is Bush or Obama. Tony Blair’s lecture will be a great help for you to understand this vital point.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Blogs on the Obama Administration at 100 Days

The 100 Day is the landmark to end the honeymoon period between new president and the whole nation. No other president has drawn such an extensive attention than Barack Obama at the 100 Days. That is because of unprecedentedly high expectations to this young and brilliant president, which is coincided with anxieties about his inexperience and political stances. In addition, America is at crossroads with the economy and national security.

The following two blogs discusses interesting points on President Obama’s 100 day job performances.

Christian Science Monitor compares the approval rate of the Obama and the Bush administrations at 100 days, based on communities classified into 11 types (“Obama vs. Bush at 100 days”; Patchwork Nation; April 27, 2009). According to this blog, Barack Obama is more divisive than George W. Bush. While Obama enjoys higher national approval rate than Bush did at the 100 days, people in conservative communities such as Immigration Nation, Military Bastion, and Evangelical Epicenters are critical to the new president. On the other hand, Obama captures the heart of liberal bases like Industrial Metropolis.

Quite importantly, Obama’s biggest advantage lies in support from centrist swing voters in communities like Monied Burbs and Boom Town, both of which are populous and wealthy.

Foreign Policy’ s blog quotes comments by leading experts to review President Obama’s achievements since his inauguration (“Questions for Obama at 100 days”; Shadow Government; April 28, 2009). Many of them quoted here express their concern with Iran, and they are right to point it out as the Department of State has released The Country Reports on Terrorism 2008 that says “Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism. Iran’s involvement in the planning and financial support of terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia had a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace, threatened economic stability in the Gulf, and undermined the growth of democracy” (Chapter 3; Country Reports on Terrorism 2008).

Kim Ghattas, state department correspondent of the BBC, says the new US administration may be trying to engage Tehran, but Iran is still described as the most active state sponsor of terrorism as mentioned by the previous administration (“Iran 'leading terrorism sponsor'”; BBC News; 1 May 2009).

In the post on Shadow Cabinet blog, Dan Twining, Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund, mentions a critical point. He questions whether President Obama believes that the Founding Father’s belief of America exceptionalism is a force of good or not. This is the vital issue in domestic politics as well. Conservatives make the case against President Obama, because they worry that his socialistic policies interfere individual freedom. During the election, overseas media were so obsessed with the Bradley effect, but race was not a primary agenda.

Despite popularity of President Obama, conservative backlashes from the grassroots are immense. The rise of student movements to counter radical multiculturalism, socialism, and mass immigration illustrates divisive nature of the Obama administration as mentioned in the Patchwork Nation. Among such groups, the Youth for Western Civilization and the Leadership Institute are growing more and more influential (“Right-Wing College Group Riles Students on Campuses Nationwide”; FOX News; April 29, 2009).

Statistically, President Obama wins high approval rate, and his popularity abroad may be of some kind of help to American foreign policy. However, conservative bases that are the most loyal to the Founding Father’s belief are critical to Barack Obama. As long as America is America, the President faces this challenge, whether in domestic or foreign policy.