“The Case for Trade between the United States and Japan
• John Thomas Schieffer, Former Ambassador to Japan (2005-2009), said that about 71 years after the end of the war, “It was not easy for either of us to look beyond the past to build a better future, but we did because organizations like the Japan America Society have nurtured and sustained the notion that is the long run there was more that could bring us together than drive us apart.”
• He quoted the words from former Ambassador to the U.S. Ryozo Kato that the US-Japan alliance was like a beautiful garden that required continuous tending. He spoke about the American history of its foreign policies and trade before talking about the tending of the garden.
• After its independence, the U.S. took a distance from the turmoil in Europe; however, it decided to enter WWI. The U.S. lost hundreds of thousands of young men in a single afternoon, and both France and Britain lost millions of people in a single generation. Their economies were also devastated, and the U.S. realized that repaying the massive loans the country had made to the allies would be unlikely.
• Americans grew bitter and cynical about their experience
in the war and recoiled from the whole experience and returned to isolationism
with a vengeance.
• Schieffer said that the U.S. came to a profound conclusion
that the two oceans were not capable of protecting the country from the
devastation of war, and that isolationism brought disastrous consequences
both in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
• Keeping the policy has been not an easy task because it has required sacrifices, and every president has faced the citizen’s tough question, “Why was their sacrifice necessary to create a better world?” Schieffer said, “As they look at the world, it is so much better than it was in 1945.”
• Ambassador Schieffer said that one of the pillars of American post-war success was trade. In 1966, a surplus of imports and exports in the U.S. was less than $50 billion and grew to $4 trillion in the recent year. He quoted an old saying, “When traders cross borders, soldiers don’t.”
• The U.S. Government has supported liberalizing effective
trade since the country learned lessons from the protectionism. The U.S.
launched the Marshall Plan and encouraged Europe and Japan to engage in
• Schieffer is concerned about one thing that hasn’t
changed from the end of WWII. It is stereotypes that easily demonize unfamiliar
groups of people or countries. He said that it would take so much work
• Regarding free trade agreements, Schieffer said, “They
are tough but in a negotiation you have to give up something to get something.
Balancing trade agreements have produced far more wealth for far more
people on both sides of our borders than any policy of protectionism could
• At the end of his speech, Ambassador Schieffer talked
about the two nations’ leadership that requires duty and sacrifice. He
said, “Together we can still lead, but we must remember the prosperity
alone cannot purchase security. We must recognize that the leadership
demands duty, and duty demands sacrifice. Neither of us can expect a better
world if either of us walks away from our responsibilities. Duty and sacrifice
can still produce peace and prosperity.”
John Thomas Schieffer, Former Ambassador to Japan, speaks at the 86th annual dinner of the Japan America Society of Chicago.