Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Toyota ditches Australia.
At a time when economists are urging Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to diversity away from mining, news that Toyota is leaving Australia is a big blow. The move isn't completely unexpected: the Japanese icon is following the lead of Ford and General Motors. But when Toyota shuts its last factory in 2017, it will mark the end of an Australian car sector tracing back to 1901. This should be a wakeup call for Abbott's government to accelerate the creation of new businesses and industries based on ideas and services, using tax incentives and big investments in education and training. The only way to move forward is to get under the hood of the economy now.
John Kerry hits Asia.
Asia will be glad to see U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry find time between Middle East peace talks to visit from Feb. 13-18. Countries like South Korea and Indonesia -- both on Kerry's itinerary -- are looking for reassurance that the Obama administration's vaunted "pivot" to the region is not just talk. As this op-ed notes, Kerry's past comments -- and his Mideast-heavy travel schedule -- have given them good reason to worry. His first task will be to put those fears to rest.
Bank of Japan needs more easing?
If Haruhiko Kuroda thinks his job is done at the Bank of Japan, he can forget it. A year after unleashing what arguably was the world's biggest monetary jolt, the Federal Reserve's tapering efforts have bond traders screaming for more yen liquidity. Kuroda will have lots of company on this monetary treadmill in Asia as officials try to calm markets. Central banks, rev your engines!
Nationalism trumps Abenomics.
The Financial Times is clearly having doubts about its early enthusiasm for Japan's revival strategy. Yet the big worry, as expressed in this editorial, isn't that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's structural reforms have yet to materialize, but that his nationalistic tendencies have. Abe's rightward lurch threatens to reorder North Asia's geopolitical trajectory, and perhaps its economic one, too.
Shanghai sashays right on by.
Tongues must be wagging among fashion-boutique managers in Hong Kong. They'd always feared Shanghai would return to its perch as the Paris of Asia, as it was regarded in the 1930s. Here's evidence the switch may be happening faster than Hong Kong fashionistas might have hoped, and a look at the economic implications as catwalks relocate.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @williampesek.)
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