Michael Auslin writes: When Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, sits down with Theresa May on Friday, he has the opportunity to form the most significant Anglo-Japanese partnership since the alliance of the early 20th century. Mr Abe not only sees great affinity between his island nation and the United Kingdom, in particular as democratic standard bearers in their respective regions, but he knows that he and Mrs May are perhaps the two closest allies of President Trump. If the two premiers are bold, they may even be able to forge a trilateral tie with Washington that reshapes global trade and politics.
There are good reasons why Mr Abe and Mrs May will find strong common ground. Rising like a phoenix from his first, failed premiership in 2006-07, Mr Abe has become the most powerful and consequential Japanese leader since the Seventies. He has become an electoral master, and has thrust through a raft of security reforms that have allowed Japan to play a larger role in Asia. While his economic reforms continue to under-perform, there remains no real alternative to his vision for a modestly liberated Japanese economy. Most significantly, he has offered Japan as the “un-China” to a region increasingly concerned about Beijing’s growing influence and assertiveness.
Similarly, Mrs May has emerged as a power in her own right, skillfully guiding Brexit through Parliament and now poised to win a major mandate at the polls. Her unapologetic stance on Brexit, buoyed by the strong British economy, has sparked comparisons with Margaret Thatcher, and has begun defining the United Kingdom’s global future separate from the European Union.
The two leaders should first announce the beginning of negotiations over a Japan-UK free trade agreement, which both need to keep their economies humming. Tokyo is reeling from Mr Trump’s abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and London needs to rack up some quick trade pacts to soften the blow of leaving the EU. Linking the world’s third and fifth largest economies would send … (read more)