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October 2012

On 22 October Sky News ‘Late Agenda’ interviewed me and Rick Wallace (Tokyo-based correspondent for ‘The Australian’) following an interview with Michael Woodford, former CEO of Olympus in Japan (click here and then here for 200-MB mp4 video-clips). Corporate governance in Japan is important for Australia, given the countries’ strong trade and investment relationship and recent pressure to finalise a bilateral Free Trade Agreement, as well as from broader regional and theoretical perspectives.

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[A version of the second half of this Comment, on the potential impact of Australia's new policy against treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration provisions on the pending FTA negotiations with Japan, appears also on the East Asia Forum - cited by Rowan Callick 'Arbitration Hitch Holds Up FTAs' The Australian (2 November 2012, p10).]

The remarkably well-attended and interactive 50th Anniversary Australia Japan Joint Business Conference took place in Sydney over 8-9 October. It was hosted by the Australian Committee, established in 1962 and comprising Australia-based firms involved with Japan. But the conference program was developed with its counterpart in Japan, which hosts there a Joint Conference in alternate years. This cooperative arrangement has become unusually close, and provides an inspiration for other bilateral business community centred relationships. (By contrast, for example, the Australia China Business Council hosts its own main events quite independently of those organised by its Chinese counterpart, comprising firms interested in doing business in Australia.) The Australia-Japan Committees’ arrangement is also very longstanding: the first joint conference took place in 1963 at the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce, with the second in 1964 at the Australian National University.

As ANU Emeritus Professor Peter Drysdale reminisced in his keynote address at this year’s conference in Sydney, this cooperative arrangement – and indeed the entire bilateral relationship between Australia and Japan – proved to be an unexpected success. After all, both countries were bitter foes during World War II. For several ensuing decades Australia maintained concerns about engaging with Asia, as well as trade liberalisation and inbound foreign investment more broadly, with Japan also habouring mercantilist tendencies.

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As emphasised in this Blog for many years, Japan has accelerated its consumer law reforms over the last two decades. Australia has also introduced major amendments since 2009, in turn prompting pending initiatives in New Zealand.

Professor Justin Malbon and I recent completed co-editing the first research monograph examining recent Trans-Tasman developments, including significant comparisons with Japan (and beyond) particularly in chapter 3 (generally) and in chapter 8 (consumer product safety regulation). Our 15-chapter book will be published by Federation Press in Sydney in late January 2013.

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