NEW Japanese president Shinzo Abe has made two key appointments which may benefit Australia.The appointment of Harvard graduates Toshimitsu Motegi and Yoshimasa Hayashi as trade and agriculture ministers has significantly bolstered Australian hopes that Japan will at last embrace trade liberalisation and finalise the long-awaited free-trade agreement between the two countries, The Australian reports.
Australia New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan chairwoman Melanie Brock, who also heads Meat & Livestock Australia in Japan, said the appointments were a positive sign for trade liberalisation and individual Japanese agricultural producers.
"It's a welcome move, one that hopefully results in not only forward-thinking steps on trade liberalisation, but is also a trigger for much needed reform in the domestic agriculture sector," she said. "Japanese agricultural produce could be competitive in global markets but not until Japanese agricultural reform commences.
"Someone needs to stand up to (powerful agriculture lobby group) JA."
Mr Motegi is a former journalist and management consultant, while Mr Hayashi served on the staff of a US senator before entering Japanese political life and was defence minister and economic and fiscal policy minister in 2008 and 2009.
Some pundits see their appointments as a sign Japan will also join negotiations for the US-backed free trade bloc known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, although this would involve staring down the farm lobby, a key LDP constituency.
Full story, The Australian.