Japan’s role in APEC is usually described as lacking leadership and active political support. This view is expressed in one of the most influential books on Japan’s role in APEC, quote;Asia Pacific Fusion” by Yōichi Funabashi. However, the question why at all Japan should exert leadership is not raised. Arguing from the fact that APEC in largest part supports Japan’s economic interests in the Asia-Pacific, the objective of the presentation is to demonstrate that Japan neither wants to exert leadership in the forum nor needs to do so. Throughout APEC’s existence, Japan has successfully managed to exert considerable influence over the forum in as much as it supports Japan’s long-term economic goals and interests in the region. There might be not much to add to Funabashi’s work on Japan’s role in APEC. However, an analytical focus on leadership overlooks that Japan’s APEC policy has been successful: By exerting influence rather than explicit leadership, Japan has managed to get APEC back on its original track of supporting economic cooperation instead of promoting full blown trade liberalization, as advocated especially by the United States.
Carsten OTTO is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Mainz University and currently conducting dissertation research at the Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo.