Japan’s Leadership in the Liberal International Order: Impact and Policy Opportunities for Partners


On January 24-25 2020, the Centre for Japanese Research hosted a two-day international conference titled “Japan’s Leadership in the Liberal International Order.” The conference was hosted by the UBC Centre for Japanese Research (CJR) at the Institute of Asian Research, led by CJR Co-Director, Yves Tiberghien. Since 2016, Japan has shown remarkable leadership in trade, global finance and economics, and the environment, and has helped to stabilize relations with China, and initiated strategic engagement with India and ASEAN. The workshop explored the history of Japanese global leadership, its significance to current global trade leadership, and the potential for Japan-Canada relations, such as over reform of the World Trade Organization. The workshop included keynote remarks by His Excellency Ambassador Kawamura Yasuhisa, remarks by SPPGA Honorary Professor Joseph Caron (former Ambassador to Japan), and was conducted with academics from other leading universities and think tanks in Canada, Japan, and the United States.

With the support and collaboration from the authors and our joint partners, the revised papers have been published on the SPPGA website.

Event details

Since 2016, Japan has shown remarkable leadership on several dimensions of global and regional economic governance, including trade governance (CPTPP, EU-Japan FTA, RCEP, Japan-US trade agreement, WTO reforms), economic and data governance (Osaka G20 in 2019, including Osaka track on data with trust, quality infrastructure, global finance), regional rules-based order (Free and Open Indo Pacific, stabilized relations with China, strategic engagement with India and ASEAN), and environmental governance (oceans, climate).
The workshop focused on the following themes:
· How significant is Japan’s new leadership in global trade leadership from CPTPP to EU-Japan FTA, US-Japan bilateral management, WTO reforms, stabilization with China, and role in RCEP?
· What is driving this change?
· Do we see a larger pattern of Japan’s leadership in the Global Liberal Order, including its G20 chairmanship, statements on climate change (Eg Davos speech)?
· Where has Japan’s leadership been limited, and what are the constraints?
· What implications and potential for Japan-Canada relations (including over WTO reform)?
photos from the conference

Presenters (left to right): Masahiro Kawai, Yves Tiberghien, Vinod Aggarwal


Friday, January 24, 2020

10:30am-10:50am: Opening Ceremony at UBC

  • Introduction: CJR Co-Director and Organizer Professor Yves Tiberghien
  • Welcome Remarks on behalf of UBC:
    • Professor Murali Chandrashekaran, Vice Provost International
    • Professor Tim Cheek, Director, Institute of Asian Research
  • Keynote Remarks: His Excellency Ambassador Kawamura Yasuhisa

10:50am- 1230pm  PANEL 1:  THE STRATEGIC PICTURE – Explaining the Burst in Japanese Leadership in Support of the Rules-Based International Order

Chair: Honorary Professor Joseph Caron (former Ambassador to Japan)


  • Professor T.J. Pempel, University of California Berkeley: “Japan caught in the Economic-Security Dilemma”
  • Harukata Takenaka, GRIPS topic: “New Normal!!: Proactive Japan and Transformed Domestic Politics”
  • Alan Alexandroff, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto: “Can Japan lead the way to effective multilateralism?”
  • Joseph Caron, Honorary Professor at UBC and Former Ambassador of Canada to Japan: “Will there be a bilateral Canada-Japan foreign and security policy agenda for the new decade?”

Discussant: Mireya Solis, Brookings Institution

12:45pm-2pm:  LUNCH

2pm-345pm:   Panel 2: Global Trade Governance: CPTPP, EU-Japan FTA, and RCEP

Chair: Don Campbell, Former Ambassador to Japan, former Deputy Minister (Canada)


  • Vinod Aggarwal, UC Berkeley: “Toward a Bipolar Economic Order? US Trade Strategy in the 21st Century”
  • Mireya Solis, Brookings Institution: “Rescuing trade multilateralism: Japan’s mission impossible?”
  • Grace Jaramillo, APFC, topic: “CPTPP in the midst the of US-China Trade War. How Japan has performed so far and what has been the consequences for its leading Global Value Chains across the Pacific Rim.”
  • Yves Tiberghien, UBC (Political Science and CJR Co-Director): “Rules and Order as National Interest: Explaining Japan’s Leadership in the CPTPP, EU-Japan FTA, and RCEP”
  • Hiroki Takeuchi, Southern Methodist University, “Is the Liberal International Order Dead? Global Value Chains and CPTPP”
  • Discussant: Leslie Armijo, SFU

345pm-415pm: Tea and Cookie Break

415pm-545pm:  Panel 3: International Organizations and Global Economic Governance

Chair: Saori Katada, UCSC


  • Philip Lipscy, Munk School, University Toronto: “Japan and International Organizations in the Liberal International Order”
  • Masahiro KAWAI, University of Tokyo; Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia; and Former ADBI Dean

Discussant: Vinod Aggarwal, UC Berkeley

Saturday, January 25, 2020

9:15am-11am:  Panel 4: Free and Open Indo-Pacific (1), Economic Pillars  (quality infrastructure, trade, energy, and digital connectivity issues)

Chair: Grace Jaramillo, APFC


  • Masahiro KAWAI, University of Tokyo; Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia; and Former ADBI Dean: “FOIP and BRI: Is convergence possible?”
  • Saori Katada, University of Southern California, “Partnership for Quality Infrastructure; developmental atavism or new liberal order?”
  • Jeff Kucharski, Royal Roads University, “Japan, FOIP and the geopolitics of energy in the Indo-Pacific”

11am-11:15am           Coffee Break

11:15am-12:15pm      KEYNOTE Lecture and Q&A – Professor Miyajima Hideaki

Executive Vice President for Financial Affairs, Waseda University

Professor of Japanese Economy,  Graduate School of Commerce, Waseda University

Adviser, Waseda Institute for Advanced Study

“Time to reconsider or Go ahead? : Corporate Governance Reforms in Japan under Abenomics”

12:15pm-1:30pm        Lunch

1:30 pm-3pm  Panel 5: Free and Open Indo Pacific (2) – Security of the Commons

Chair: Dr Jeff Reeves, Vice President, APFC


  • Kristi Govella, Hawaii University: “Coping with Competition in the Global Commons: Japan in the Outer Space, Cyberspace, and Maritime Domains.”
  • Sayuri Romei, Public Policy Fellow, Wilson Center, “Japan’s global leadership and alignment with the United States and Europe.”
  • David Welch, U Waterloo, “Engaging China’s hot-button maritime and territorial disputes”