FREE TRADE MOVEMENT IN ASIA PACIFIC
In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the repeal of the Corn Laws, let me start with its impact on a then small island country in the Far East. Japan opened its doors to trade with Europe and the USA in 1858, when the momentum for free trade mounted after the repeal of the Corn Laws. This reached its peak with the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty between Great Britain and France in 1860, when this newcomer concluded a trade agreement with the major Western trading nations. Under the terms of the treaty, Japanese import and export duties were limited to uniform rates as low as 5 per cent (ad valorem equivalent) on all commodities and Japan could not change these tariffs autonomously. These low tariffs continued until Japan acquired its tariff autonomy in 1899. Since non-tariff barriers had not yet been invented, Japan was under de facto free trade. Views are divided as to whether this initial condition of free trade thereafter did good or harm to Japanese industrialization (Yamazawa 1990:141-6).