Japan, a Champion of Free Trade, Takes a Page From Trump’s Playbook



Mayumi Negishi and Eun-Young Jeong | The Wall Street Journal

Japan’s decision to use its technology exports as a weapon in diplomatic combat signals a strategy upheaval for a resource-poor country long aware of its vulnerability in an interconnected world.

A day after Tokyo said it would curb exports to South Korea of materials used by semiconductor and display makers there, concern was rising in Japan about damage to the global technology supply chain as well as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s carefully nurtured image as a standard-bearer of free trade.

“This hurts Japan as well as South Korea, and it damages Japan’s reputation,” said Yorizumi Watanabe, a professor emeritus at Keio University specializing in trade policy. “Free trade is like a bicycle. If you stop pedaling, you fall down.”

Japan’s decision to attack Pearl Harbor in December 1941 was sparked by an American export embargo, which Tokyo’s leaders considered an act of war because the country relied on American oil.

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