Sunday, November 8, 2009

Across the Pond

In all the American hang-ringing over Prime Minister Hatoyama’s yuai view of the world, I do not recall anyone in Washington asking what our European allies thought. This is ironic as the infamous Hatoyama essay, "A New Path for Japan," first appeared in the print edition of the International Herald Tribune, and never in the New York Times. As the owner of the Tribune, the Times simply placed the essay on its website.

The Financial Times, fortunately, does give us some insight in what Europeans might think. They are considerably more understanding than us Americans. Of course, there is that European smugness that they are not the only critics of the consumer-driven American way of life.

José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, sent Prime Minister Hatoyama, on September 15th a congratulatory letter praising Hatoyama’s criticism of US-style capitalism, as a sign of “converging” visions in Brussels and Tokyo. Barroso said it is now necessary to “shape globalization with values promoting human dignity.”

It was not lost on the EC President that the Japanese PM had praised European democracy and the essay seemed to support his proposed political guidelines for the European Commission. They too can be a model for Japan.

What better way, muses a European blogger, for Mr. Barroso to garner a few votes the next day from his socialist detractors for his reelection as Commission president. The vote was September 16th.

Or maybe he wanted to strengthen Europe’s position and influence at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh the following week. The Europeans are greatly outnumbered in a G-20 setting. His Global Viewpoint essay had an appeal to the new Japanese government when he said “We must inspire the world with our vision of a future where open markets and the freedom to create wealth are framed within clear ethical and environmental principles, backed by strongly enforced global rules.

And maybe his support of Hatoyama was just good business. The change of the old guard in Tokyo might finally open Japan’s markets to Airbus and the Eurofighter. That’s one way toward “rebalancing global economic growth.”

“Liberté, égalité, fraternité!”

Yeah, whatever.

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