1. Opening Remarks
"Toward a New Asia"
Speech by Minister of State for Science and Technology and in charge of Information Technology Toshimitsu MotegiAt the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2004
April 24, 2004
Honorable Chairman Wei Jiafu,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor to be able to attend the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2004. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my sincere appreciation to our host the BFA, and also the Government of the People’s Republic of China for their great and valuable cooperation in holding this conference.
Two years ago, the 1st BFA Conference was held on the initiative of His Excellency Fidel V. Ramos and His Excellency Bob Hawke. Today, the BFA is now holding its third Annual Conference. There is a saying in China that, "One hundred rivers may have different sources, yet all return to the sea." Asia is home to a great diversity of history, culture, ethnicity and tradition similar to these one hundred rivers. Given the realities of Asia, I believe that this Annual Conference is extremely significant. Many experts and officials from different circles such as politics, business and academia of various Asian countries and regions can take great advantage from the opportunity to assemble once a year in Boao, a land open to the sea, where they can frankly exchange opinions on the future of Asia.
On this occasion, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was unfortunately unable to attend the Annual Conference. I am attending the Conference, in my position as Minister in charge of Information Technology, since the IT industry in Asia has been identified as one of the themes for discussion this year.
I will be addressing the subject of IT in more detail later in the afternoon session. I would like to take this opportunity to take up the theme of "Toward a New Asia." I will talk about challenges and regional cooperation in Asia, as well as Japan’s efforts in this area.
2. General Statement
Ladies and Gentlemen,
During the second half of the 20th century, Asia achieved dramatic, even historic development. Building on what has been achieved to date in Asia, in the drive "Towards a New Asia," what is now required to realize stable and sustainable development?
It is my belief that three keywords of "initiative," "diversity" and "openness" are important. Under these keywords the Asian countries should set about expanding and deepening regional cooperation by facilitating “structural reforms” and “economic partnership” as the “two wheels of a cart.”
Prime Minister Koizumi has advocated the construction of an Asian community that "acts together and advances together." He has also stated that, "While recognizing our historical, cultural, ethnic and traditional diversity, I would like to see countries in the region become a group that works together in harmony."
3. Structural Reforms
First and foremost, I am convinced that an essential precept for Asia to achieve sustainable growth and development is to endeavor to proactively promote and strengthen "structural reforms."
Japan has recognized the importance of harnessing the potential of the private sector and local areas in order to revitalize the economy of Japan. Under a policy of "leave to the private sector what it can do" and "leave to the localities what they can do," Prime Minister Koizumi has been taking strong leadership to advance these initiatives and efforts towards structural reforms. As a result, the Japanese economy has finally shown signs of a brighter outlook in various sectors.
In a similar manner, the countries of Asia are also making proactive efforts to promote structural reforms.
In the midst of competition in the international market, Asian countries are required to establish a competitive economy. In order to meet the demand of the “New Asia Era,” each country should advance structural reforms proactively and establish a fair and transparent economic structure domestically.
4. Economic Partnership
So, what is necessary next to integrate the achievements of these “structural reforms” in Asia into the prosperity of the entire region? I believe it is the sharing of the individual principles and philosophies of the structural reforms in the form of "economic partnership." Yet at the same time, efforts for the realization of "economic partnership" will in turn become a mechanism which will press for further "structural reforms" domestically. As such, "structural reforms" and "economic partnership" are interrelated to and supported by one another, just like a pair of wheels on a cart.
However, in the meantime, it is also true that moves in Asia towards economic integration have not made much progress in comparison to the moves in other regions such as NAFTA and the European Union. In addition to its late start in engaging in efforts for Free Trade Agreements, this lack of progress may be due to Asia’s diverse history, culture, ethnicity and tradition, as well as differences in the methods and speed of development among the countries.
Nevertheless, it is important to consider the perspective of diversity in Asia when carrying forward efforts for economic partnership. Economic partnership can only be made possible after "diversity" is fully understood and taken into consideration. Japan, having concluded the Economic Partnership Agreement with Singapore, is now in the process of negotiating with South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. For these agreements, Japan is placing much of its focus on comprehensive coverage from goods and services to structures and on flexibility, according to their own conditions, in the negotiating process. At the same time, China, South Korea and ASEAN countries are all rapidly working toward economic partnerships both within and beyond the region.
I envision these "threads" of economic partnership will weave themselves into a network that covers the entire region at a time not so far future.
5. Regional Cooperation in Asia
For the entire Asian community to enjoy the economic benefits generated from these economic partnerships, each of these partnerships should be advanced in an “open” manner both within and beyond the region.
Moreover, it is necessary to strategically advance these efforts for "open" economic partnerships while maintaining coherence among the Asian countries. To achieve this, it is beneficial for the Asian countries to expand and deepen their multi-layered regional cooperation.
Up to now, frameworks for regional cooperation such as ASEAN, APEC and ARF have developed in Asia. In recent years, in addition to these frameworks, cooperation is being cultivated under new frameworks such as the ASEAN+3 and Trilateral Cooperation among Japan, China and South Korea.
The leaders of Japan, China and South Korea met in the Republic of Indonesia in October last year. The leaders drew up a ground-breaking vision for strengthening future-oriented cooperation in a broad range of areas including economy and politics as well as IT and science technology.
Furthermore, the Japan-ASEAN Commemorative Summit Meeting was held in Tokyo last December. One of the major achievements of the Summit was the affirmation of a partnership that “acts together and advances together” towards the creation of an East Asian community.
I am getting a real feeling in these new trends of the stirrings of a "New Asia" that will be open to and flourish in the world.
6. Stability in the Asian Region
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we look around from the perspective of a "New Asia Open to the World," since the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, acts of terrorism have been seen in all regions, and a security consciousness is growing on a global scale. In such an environment, for any efforts to successfully lead to economic prosperity in each country as well as in the Asian region, the securing of regional peace and stability in Asia is also essential.
In the APEC forum, leaders have agreed on efforts to be undertaken by APEC to respond to security challenges such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This agreement will lead to enhancement of domestic regulations concerning man-portable air defense systems and cooperation to deal with such issues as biological and chemical weapons.
I believe it to be important that we should further promote cooperation in the Asian region towards the elimination of terrorism and to address security challenges. Japan is prepared to extend various kinds of assistance in a wide range of fields including capacity building in counter ?terrorism activities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In conclusion, moves to achieve economic prosperity and political stability call for more substance to be added to frameworks for regional cooperation. This should include a wider range of “soft” frameworks, in addition to efforts among governments. Such frameworks include cooperation with and among the business world, academia and others in the private sector.
In this sense, the Boao Forum for Asia provides a most significant forum for leaders from around Asia to gather together and engage in frank discussions. In my opening remarks I referred to the flow of one hundred rivers. I am firmly convinced that various exchanges of opinions will take place here in Boao today and tomorrow. Those opinions together will form a river of wisdom that will flow towards peace and prosperity in Asia that stretches as wide as the ocean itself.
Thank you for your attention.