The Midwest US – Japan Conference 2016

Mark O’Connell | 22 Sep 2016 | UK and Ireland Perspective

mark standing with group

Just back from a very enjoyable few days in St Louis Missouri who hosted the Midwest US – Japan conference, and alliance which is now entering its 50th year of existence. OCO Global sponsored the event and managed to spend quality time with a number of our clients and prospects and full marks to the Governor of Missouri Jay Nixon and his team at the Missouri Department of Economic Development for being such fantastic hosts.

Aside from the enduring and resilient trade and investment interdependencies between the US Mid-West and Japan, what surprised me at the Cardinals- Brewers game at the Busch stadium on Sunday was that both sides speak a common language- baseball! When I asked for the main differences between the way the US and Japanese play the game, I was informed the Japanese don’t do ‘Kiss cams’ …..look it up!

A major theme of this year’s conference was the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations which is an agreement between 12 countries that represent some 40% of the global economy, who have agreed to negotiate an FTA (free trade agreement). Japan and the US are the biggest and most pivotal players in this partnership, and the leaders of both countries have staked much political capital on the ratification of the deal. There was much evidence at the conference that the Japanese government has worked hard to sell the benefits of the deal to grassroots and its merits are broadly accepted, while in the US the issue seems to have been hijacked by the presidential election bandwagons, and support is dissipating.

As a firm who has built its name on globalisation, OCO Global is a strong advocate of free markets, free trade, free movement of people and ideas, obviously with some sensible standards and regulation to prevent abuse of labour, environment, copyright or prices. In todays connected world, or as some describe it global village, the concept of building walls, erecting trade barriers and propping up defunct national industries seems both regressive and naïve. And economic history is littered with the examples of isolationist strategies that have failed dismally- Eastern Europe, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea.

The Mid West Japan corridor was strong before anyone thought of TPP, and irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations which we hope will be positive, is resilient and enduring enough to weather short term political head winds.