Potential Still Untapped: Japanese Perceptions of the European Union as an Economic and Normative Power

Paul Bacon; Emi Kato
December 2013
Baltic Journal of European Studies;Dec2013, Vol. 3 Issue 3, p59
This article focuses on two of the three pillars of the 'EU through the Eyes of Asia' perceptions project, and analyzes the Japanese print media and elite interviews. We focus on two issues: the first of these is exasperation at the slow progress towards an EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement/Economic Partnership Agreement (FTA/EPA). This exasperation is clearest in the Japanese elite interviews, but the trade negotiations also feature significantly in discussions in the Japanese print media. The second issue is the consistent perception of the EU as a significant normative and diplomatic power, and a leader on human rights promotion, with this perception strongly evident in both the Japanese print media and elite interviews. Overall, the EU was perceived positively as a political actor, and, in a boost for post-Lisbon perceptions of the EU, High Representative Catherine Ashton had a generally high and somewhat positive profile in Japan. This came across more strongly in the print media rather than the elite interviews. In a much-quoted speech given in Japan in 2006, Commission President José Manuel Barroso talked of the untapped trade potential within EU-Japan relations, and the normative power of the EU and Japan. A focus on perceptions helps to inform us about the global importance of the EU and how this is being interpreted outside of Europe. To understand the European Union itself we need to have an external reflection in order to interpret its meaning. Through our study, we hope to highlight and communicate the fact that the Barroso perspective is shared by many within Japan.


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