WASHINGTON: US Democratic President-elect Joe Biden is expected to value officials with expertise to steer his country’s diplomacy toward Japan, just as the previous Democratic administration of Barack Obama did.
This would represent a shift away from current Republican President Donald Trump’s diplomacy, which relied heavily on his personal relationship with former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
A major diplomatic issue between Tokyo and Washington is a proposed renewal of the expiring bilateral pact on Japan’s host-nation support for US troops stationed in the Asian country.
“The host-nation support negotiations traditionally have been done by people who have expertise,” a former US official said. “I think there would just be a return to a professionalization of these discussions as opposed to a politicization of these discussions.”
“I’m not saying that the United States would ask less of Japan. But I don’t think it would come in with an outrageous demand that would never be met,” the former official added.
“Traditionally or historically, some in Japan have been a bit nervous about Democratic administrations,” the former official said, in connection with the party’s emphasis on US relations with China.
But “there will be a lot of efforts to try to develop the US-Japan relationship” under Biden’s administration, the former official said, noting that the former vice president’s closest diplomatic advisers, including former Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, prioritize allies.
Biden himself has made clear his intention to work closely with allies including Japan to confront China.
Meanwhile, Biden is withholding his own opinion favoring renegotiations to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, seeing difficulties reversing quickly the protectionist policies taken by the Trump administration.
Biden’s campaign platform had no mention of the pact. The platform instead included a promise not to enter into any trade talks for the time being, so as not to disappoint free trade opponents in the tightly contested Rust Belt industrial states.
Meanwhile, the US energy policy is likely to change drastically under Biden’s administration. He plans to begin on his first day in office procedures to rejoin the UN Paris Agreement on climate change.
Biden also plans to promote large-scale investments for the realization of a carbon-free society, which would provide a boost to the renewable energy and electric vehicle markets.
This would benefit Japanese automakers operating in the United States. But natural resources developers may face tougher regulations.