It has been confirmed that Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry wrote in its annual unfair trade report published on June 26, two days ahead of the G20 summit in Osaka, that the global order of free trade would lose its value if exceptions to trade restrictions are easily allowed on the grounds of national security. Also the G20 Leaders’ Declaration led by the hosting country Japan emphasized that members strive to realize a “transparent, predictable, and stable trade and investment environment.”
Only five days later on July 1, Japan’s economy ministry imposed restrictions on exports of three key materials to South Korea. At that time, the economy ministry said trust with South Korea had been broken over the forced labor dispute. When Japan was criticized by major international news outlets for imposing trade restrictions for political reasons, it changed its logic, saying the trade restrictions are not based on forced labor dispute but on national security concerns. When it slapped broad new trade restrictions early this month by excluding South Korea from its own “white list” of trusted trading partners, Japan said the new measure is to implement its export system properly from the perspective of national security.
But the report by the Japanese economy ministry shows that it pushed ahead with trade restrictions knowing that imposing export restrictions on the grounds of national security is against the spirit of free trade. Japan violated the words written in the report it submitted to the international society. Japan’s contradictory actions do not stop here. When the U.S. moved to apply the Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act to countries, including South Korea, Japan, and members of the European Union, Japan criticized the U.S., by saying that it is applying a clause that was intended to keep communist nations in check in the 1960s to security alliance. Japan should realize that it will be hard to justify its trade restrictions on South Korea with any logic or justification and bring back a transparent and stable trade environment as soon as possible like it declared at the G20 summit.