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The "3-11 triple disasters" that afflicted Japan on 11 March 2011 have highlighted broader regulatory issues facing countries particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan's FTA negotiation program. A few months after "3-11", the Japan Foundation established a special grant program calling for collaborative research conferences on disaster prevention and management - seeking applications by end-September, with decisions to be reached by end-October and conferences to be concluded by March 2012. An application by a consortium led by the University of Sydney Law School was successful, allowing a major international conference to take place in the new Sydney Law School premises over Friday 1 March and Saturday 2 March 2012. Other sponsors of this event are the University's Japanese Studies Department and the new China Studies Centre, the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney (CAPLUS), the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL), and the Law Faculty of Tohoku University (one of the University of Sydney's longstanding partner institutions).

The conference will commemorate the first anniversary of the 3-11 disasters, and also represents ANJeL's tenth international conference on diverse aspects of Japanese Law. It will examine regulatory issues from a variety of social science perspectives, focusing on Japan but comparing Australia (of course, especially in the wake of January's devastating floods in Queensland), New Zealand (especially issues highlighted by the Christchurch earthquake), Indonesia (the Aceh tsunami), China and the USA (especially earthquakes and nuclear power issues).

Please "save the date", and keep an eye on the ANJeL website and the Sydney Law School "events" website for forthcoming registration and other details.

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Downloadable here is my draft paper on this topic for various forthcoming events, beginning with a 3 August seminar hosted by Sydney Law School on "Australia's New Policy on Investor-State Dispute Settlement".

The paper draws on research for the project, 'Fostering a Common Culture in Cross-Border Dispute Resolution: Australia, Japan and the Asia-Pacific', supported by the Commonwealth through the Australia-Japan Foundation which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Treaty-based investor-state arbitration (ISA) has gradually become a more established part of the legal landscape in the Asian region. But this development is threatened by the 'Gillard Government Trade Policy Statement' announced in April 2011.

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Imagine an international regime with these institutional features:

1. Virtually free trade in goods and services, including a "mutual recognition" system whereby compliance with regulatory requirements in one jurisdiction (eg qualifications to practice law or requirements to offering securities to the public) basically means exemption from compliance with regulations in the other jurisdiction. And for sensitive areas, such as food safety, there is a trans-national regulator.

2. Virtually free movement of capital, underpinned by private sector and governmental initiatives.

3. Permanent residence available to nationals from the other jurisdiction (and strong pressure to maintain flexible rules about multiple nationality).

4. Treaties for regulatory cooperation, simple enforcement of judgments (a court ruling in one jurisdiction is treated virtually identically to a ruling of a local court), and to avoid double taxation (including a system for taxpayer-initiated arbitration among the member states).

5. Government commitment to harmonising business law more widely, eg now for consumer and competition law.

No, the answer is not the obvious one: I am NOT talking about the European Union (EU). I am referring to the Trans-Tasman framework built up between Australia and New Zealand, particularly over the last decade, sometimes through treaties (binding in international law) but sometimes in softer ways (eg parallel legislation in each country). And since both countries are actively pursuing bilateral and now some regional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), especially in the Asia-Pacific region, can't at least some of these Trans-Tasman initiatives become a template for a broader "Asia Pacific Community"?

This question is particularly timely as the new DPJ-led government in Japan, has declared its support not only for the WTO system but also for FTAs, particularly in the Asian region. It also advocates improvements in food and consumer product safety measures. Whether or not Australia is considered part of Asia, either by Japan or itself, the two countries are continuing bilateral FTA negotiations in the context of growing involvement in regional arrangements in the Asia-Pacific region. Such developments constitute one theme at the NZ Centre for International Economic Law conference, “Trade Agreements: Where Do We Go From Here?”, over 22-23 October 2009 in Wellington. Below is an edited introduction to my four-part paper, now available in further updated form as a Sydney Law School Research Paper. Powerpoint slides are also available in PDF here.

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A lively and long-overdue debate has emerged recently on the now widely-read East Asia Forum blog. Leading in to their forthcoming 6th edition textbook, economists McTaggart, Findlay and Parkin defended "The state of economics" against charges it failed to anticipate and address well the GFC. Another Australian economist, Steve Keen from UWS, responded with: "Why neoclassical economics is dead". So Richard Pomfret from Adelaide objects that it is: "Too soon for obituaries: economics is alive and (reasonably) well".

I can't resist adding my two yen's worth. Contrary to Pomfret, unfortunately 'neoclassical economics' is not a 'straw man' set up by Keen. Nor has it 'moved on' - enough, especially these days. To give only one example relevant to Australasia: J Mark Ramseyer's simplistic application of Chicago School methodology to the economic analysis of virtually all aspects of Japanese law and the economy.

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[Originally posted, with full hyperlinks, at http://eastasiaforum.org/author/lukenottage/]

Many commentators are belatedly pointing out parallels between the financial markets boom and bust cycle in Japan over the 1980s and 1990s, and that now afflicting the US. However, especially when it comes to solutions for the US and hence the world economy, things are not quite as simple as envisaged by Japan’s then financial services minister, Yoshimi Watanabe, who proclaimed in March: “The US should follow Japan’s example and tackle its sub-prime loan problem using public money. The situation is exactly like what Japan saw 10 years ago”.

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[Originally posted, with full hyperlinks, at http://eastasiaforum.org/author/lukenottage/]

In 2003, financial journalist Gillian Tett wrote a book with a self-explanatory title: Saving the Sun: How Wall Street Mavericks Shook Up Japan’s Financial World and Made Billions (Harper Collins). It epitomized a school of thought proclaiming a dramatic shift in Japan towards US-style corporate governance more generally. On 24 September, still writing for the Financial Times, Tett concluded that if she were writing her book again, she “would give it a more upbeat slant. Anyone know the Japanese for ‘eating humble pie’?”. The Japan Society of Scotland has already suggested “sunao ni ayamaru (to apologise obediently without protesting)” or “memboku wo ushinau (to lose face)”! Japan’s big financial institutions are certainly now back on the world stage, picking up some big pieces from America’s own financial crisis. And Japanese policy-makers and other commentators now want to lecture the US on how to deal with it.

Who would have thought, even a year ago, that Nomura Securities would be buying up the now-insolvent Lehman Brothers’ operations in Asia (including those in Australia, involving a total 3000 employees – with half in Tokyo) and then Europe (2500 employees)? And for just US$225m and “a nominal sum”, respectively, out of cash reserves of almost $6b Nomura has raised since April? Or that Mitsubishi UFJ, which spent $3.5b to buy out the Union Bank of California, would now be committing up to $9b to take 10-20% of Morgan Stanley, another precarious “Big Five” Wall Street investment bank? Or that Sumitomo Mitsui, which recently spent $1b for 2% of Barclays bank in the UK (which in turn has bought Lehman’s US operations), is prepared to invest US$1-3b in Goldman Sachs if requested by that other precarious Wall Street firm? Or that Mizuho would have recently pumped $1.2b into Merrill Lynch, another troubled firm that took refuge with the Bank of America in a $50b merger announced on 15 September?

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Japanese Law in Asia-Pacific Socio-Economic Context
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