3 Seas Initiative Gets Big Boost From Japan’s Strong Interest

COMMENTARY Global Politics

3 Seas Initiative Gets Big Boost From Japan’s Strong Interest

Jul 28th, 2021 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Anthony B. Kim

Research Manager and Editor of the Index of Economic Freedom

Anthony B. Kim researches international economic issues at The Heritage Foundation, with a focus on economic freedom and free trade.
Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence on July 08, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Nicolas Datiche - Pool / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Suga affirmed that Japan is interested in participating in projects related to the initiative, along with other nonmember partners, such as the United States.

America’s ongoing support for the Three Seas Initiative is smart, timely, and strategic, particularly given its growing relevance.

President Joe Biden said, “There is incredible potential for increasing cooperation and connectivity among this group.”

The Three Seas Initiative has scored another notable achievement in Tokyo, following the successful gathering of the sixth Three Seas Summit and Business Forum in Sofia, Bulgaria, earlier this month.

During his visit to Japan last week for the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympics, Polish President Andrzej Dudamdash;one of the founding members of the Three Seas Initiative—met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on a range of issues of mutual interest.

In particular, the leaders of the two nations that have been linked through a strategic partnership since 2015 shared their perspectives on the Three Seas Initiative and agreed to work more closely in terms of practical action that can further operationalize the initiative in concrete ways.

Suga affirmed that Japan is interested in participating in projects related to the initiative, along with other nonmember partners, such as the United States and Germany.

Officially launched in 2016 to facilitate the development of energy and infrastructure ties among 12 nations, the Three Seas Initiative aims to strengthen trade and investment interaction among countries bordering the Adriatic, Baltic, and Black seas and to connect them for greater regional development.

From a practical commercial diplomacy perspective related to direct foreign investment, Japanese companies’ presence in central and Eastern Europe are quite significant and can grow further. It’s notable that in 2018, then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited five of the Three Seas Initiative countries—Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, and Romania.

The regional initiative—initially dismissed by many as just talking shop, which would have little impact on the real world—has become increasingly relevant.

China’s “17+1” bloc in the region is losing momentum. Lithuania pulled out of that bloc in May, and Beijing’s influence in Central and Eastern Europe is facing increasing resistance. The Three Seas Initiative is an increasingly viable alternative.

The initiative has its own investment fund, known as the Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund, which has garnered strong support from the United States and is attracting other countries interested in membership.

America’s ongoing support for the Three Seas Initiative is smart, timely, and strategic, particularly given its growing relevance. It’s notable that both the U.S. and Germany are increasingly interested in the success of the initiative, which looks set to become the most vital platform for regional cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe.

Japan’s strong interest and participation in the Three Seas Initiative is thus more than welcome.

Highlighting that, Suga stressed “the very great interest of the Japanese government in our activities in the Three Seas region.” Duda underscored that the support of the Japanese government signifies the green light for that country’s companies to invest—mainly in cyberspace, infrastructure, and energy—in the region.

Fundamentally, the Three Seas Initiative is and should be a practical platform for attracting private sector investors. The initiative’s success is undoubtedly dependent on building private partnerships reinforced by the U.S. commitment to the region.

During the Three Seas Initiative summit July 8 and 9 in Bulgaria, President Joe Biden said, “There is incredible potential for increasing cooperation and connectivity among this group that will enhance the security and prosperity of the region and, quite frankly, benefit the world.”

“The United States will be an unfailing partner of the initiative,” Biden added.

It is indeed in Washington’s long-term foreign policy interest to take a multifaceted approach to advancing its transatlantic policy objectives, building greater economic relationships, and upholding the shared values of democracy and the rule of law, together with like-minded, willing allies around the region.

The Three Seas Initiative can play an important role in achieving those goals.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal