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May 2009

Dr Malcolm Cook and Mr Andrew Shearer at the Lowy Institute in Sydney published last month a short analysis entitled Going Global: A New Australia-Japan Agenda for Multilateral Cooperation:

‘To help both governments navigate [a] more complicated and uncertain international environment, the paper offers a agenda for enhanced Australia-Japan multilateral cooperation organised around:
- support for American global leadership, and
- reforming post-war multilateralism.
Three areas of international policy are particularly well suited to closer Australia-Japan cooperation in pursuit of these goals: climate change and energy security; nuclear non-proliferation; and official development assistance.’

I have some doubts about these two foundational principles, especially over the mid- to long-term, given America’s own longstanding ambivalence about multilateralism, and its relative decline particularly since the GFC. In the short term, however, it seems worthwhile to think more deeply and creatively about three of their seven specific recommendations:

‘- Leverage APEC and the East Asia Summit more to act as caucuses in multilateral bodies like the WTO …
- Better coordinate Australian and Japanese aid policies and programs …
- More ambitiously, develop and pursue an Australia-Japan agenda for reform of the multilateral system.’ (p2)

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1. I wrote to Australia's Treasurer recently agreeing we need re-regulation of Australia’s consumer credit markets, along the lines proposed in ‘The National Consumer Credit Reform Package’.

2. I considered some improvements that could be made regarding an External Dispute Resolution scheme. But I begin by supporting a key improvement proposed in the National Consumer Credit Protection Bill: imposing responsible lending rules (focused on ‘suitability’ and repayment capacity), drawing partly on my studies of Japanese law.

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