Sat, Jan 21, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Abe’s adviser urges pushback if Trump takes ‘wrong’ tack

Reuters, TOKYO

Japan should push back if US President Donald Trump bases trade and other economic policy on “wrong economics,” an adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in an unusually direct expression of concern about potential protectionism.

Koichi Hamada, emeritus professor of economics at Yale University and a Cabinet adviser, added that Abe could relax his timetable for balancing the budget in the next four years and should be ready to further delay a planned sales tax hike to ensure economic growth.

Threats by Trump to impose a “border tax” on imports and take other protectionist measures have raised uncertainties about global trade.

“There is some danger if he bases his decisions on wrong economics without listening to good advisers, and if he thinks that he could manage national economic matters as he does his real-estate company,” Hamada said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday.

“If the United States were to be led by a near-autocrat and if Japan cooperates just to please him, that would break the whole world system,” he said.

Moreover, if Trump should criticize Japan for not going along, Hamada said Tokyo should respond: “You’re wrong. Please heed the views of your own experts.”

Officials and executives in export powerhouse Japan have been privately concerned about Trump’s policies, but have largely been muted in public.

The government has set out to show Trump’s camp that Japanese companies create many US jobs, while defending Toyota Motor Corp — the target of one Trump tweet — as a good “corporate citizen” of the US.

On Japan’s economy, Hamada stressed growth over austerity, even as Abe struggles to curb the industrial world’s heaviest government debt burden.

Abe has promised to achieve a budget surplus, excluding interest payments on debt, in the fiscal year to March 2021, a commitment Japanese Minister of Finance Taro Aso reiterated yesterday.

“There is no need for Japan to follow such a strict timeframe,” Hamada said.

“Under the changing world situation, it’s good for the world too if the Japanese live an affluent life and buy goods from abroad, instead of just attaining the government balance,” he said.

Hamada, an architect of the Bank of Japan’s massive money-printing aimed at ending decades of deflation, now emphazises spending and lower taxes to spur growth.

Similarly, Abe’s government could this year debate revising the budget-balancing target, sources have said.

Hamada said Abe should lower corporate taxes and postpone the sales tax hike if Japan has not escaped deflation in time for a planned increase to 10 percent from 8 percent in October 2019.

Asked about concerns that Trump might accuse Japan of weakening the yen to boost exports, Hamada defended Japan’s right to intervene in the market to halt sharp rises in its currency.

“If it moves ¥7 or ¥8 a day, I think the government should intervene to punish speculators,” Hamada said. “But government intervention can’t change market trends.”

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