The EPA will not have the transformative effect on the economic relationship of the 1957 Agreement on Commerce (which Abe’s grandfather Kishi signed in Canberra in 1957) or the 1976 Basic Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation.
The former helped bring Japan into the global trading system with equal treatment just over a decade after the war, while the latter boosted Japanese investment and movement of people between the two countries.
The TPP does not include China and RCEP does not include the United States, so Australia and Japan have a critical role to play in ensuring that these agreements do not divide the region but are instead complementary and bring China and the United States into a closer and more comprehensive trans-regional arrangement in the longer term.
The deepening of regional economic interdependence will help countries manage their other differences.
Australia’s biggest growth potential lies in exporting services and high value-add products to China and throughout the region.
China is embedded in the global trading system and has shown it is keen to play a positive role in broader regional economic cooperation.
Japan is Australia’s second most important economic partner, with trade and investment of close to US billion annually — Australia is Japan’s fourth largest trading partner.
Less recognised is the strategic importance of the economic relationship: Australia is the largest supplier of strategic raw materials to Japan and underwrites its industrial strength.
As Washington's reliability and effectiveness as an ally diminish, it's logical that a more robust relationship between Australia and Japan would extend beyond the economic realm into the security sphere.
To that end, Australia and Japan have been working to develop a security structure independent of their alliance with the United States intended to eventually bring in additional allies, both Asian and European.