Clinton win will bring more comfort

Ask any Japanese man or woman on the street and chances are, most are hoping that former United States secretary of state Hillary Clinton will triumph over property mogul Donald Trump to win the US presidential election next week.

After all, the former top US foreign affairs official was seen to be instrumental behind the US' pivot to Asia, which helped to hedge against China's dominance of the region.

But the Japanese are hardly going to bring out the beer and shout "kanpai" even if Mrs Clinton wins.

For Japanese businessmen worry she may be under pressure to adopt protectionist economic policies after she enters the White House.

International relations expert Ryoko Nakano of Kanazawa University in central Japan said: "Whoever becomes the president, this mood will probably not go away.


"(Clinton's) economic policies will reflect the domestic frustration with economic globalisation. Japan is not optimistic about the openness of the US in a global economic system in future."

Actually, neither Mrs Clinton nor Mr Trump has brought much assurance to the Japanese during the campaign, denting the East Asian country's trust in its closest trade and security ally, said analysts.

Both candidates have voiced their disdain for the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact, which US foreign policy expert Toshihiro Nakayama of Keio University sees as "an effort to engage in a regional order building effort".

The TPP, which notably leaves out China, is seen as a means to contain China's influence in the region.

He told The Straits Times: "It is more than a trade agreement. If there is a US withdrawal, countries in the region will doubt US willingness to be a resident power in this region."

Because of this, Japan is hoping to quietly pressure the US to follow its lead on the TPP - and the Japanese government has been rushing for the pact to be ratified within the current Diet session that ends on Nov 30. "If we keep idling away our time, it could prompt calls for renegotiations," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said this week.

Japan's Minister-in-charge of Economic Revitalisation Nobuteru Ishihara has also spoken of the "need to steer America".

Still, when it comes to basic needs like security, a Clinton win will bring more comfort to Japan.

Dr Nakayama felt she will likely be as committed to global issues as President Barack Obama. But a Trump win will likely bring about "a hybrid of isolationism and sporadic interventionism".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2016, with the headline 'Clinton win will bring more comfort'. Print Edition | Subscribe