"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Following His Visit to Argentina and His Attendance at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Lima, Peru and Related Meetings

[Date] November 21, 2016
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Just now a strong earthquake struck off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture and a tsunami warning was issued. I gave instructions to the relevant authorities to provide the public with information regarding tsunamis and evacuation in a timely and accurate manner, swiftly grasp the damage situation, and make all-out efforts toward emergency measures in response to the disaster.

To reinforce this, I also directly instructed the Chief Cabinet Secretary to take all possible measures.

Placing the foremost emphasis on ensuring safety, we will work in close cooperation with the local authorities in making our utmost efforts to respond to the disaster, with the government acting fully in unison.

I have made this official visit to the Argentine Republic as the first sitting prime minister to do so in 57 years. My grandfather also spoke often about his memories of that time 57 years ago when he received a tremendous welcome everywhere he went. I want to first of all offer my heartfelt thanks to the Argentine people for giving me such a warm welcome during my visit, just as my grandfather received during his time here.

The history of cordial relations between Japan and Argentina extend back for more than a century. It has been 130 years since a young Japanese man filled with great hopes set foot on this Argentinian soil. At present, 65,000 Japanese descendants are living here. In Peru which I visited yesterday, there live some 100,000 Japanese descendants. They are truly bridges of friendship between Japan and Peru and Japan and Argentina.

Building upon this marvelous cornerstone, we will further expand people-to-people exchanges and cooperation in the area of the economy. During this trip I reached agreement with both President Mauricio Macri of Argentina and President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Peru to elevate Japan’s bilateral relations with each of their countries to being “strategic partners.”

In Peru and here in Argentina as well, I had the opportunity to meet with Japanese descendants. They made great efforts toward the development of the region through their natural diligence and industry and have earned deep trust. I would like to express my sincere respect to them.

At the same time, when I think about the many kinds of difficulties Japanese descendants overcame before, during, and after World War II, I can only feel a sense of thanks for the generosity shown by the people of Latin America, who so warmly welcomed my fellow countrymen and women.

With the Great Depression as a turning point, there was a time when extreme protectionism and exclusionism cultivated the seeds of conflict and drove the world toward war. With that regret firmly etched into our memory, we must reconfirm that it is free and open economies that are the cornerstone of peace and prosperity. We must not become inward-focused. It will instead be a world brimming with vitality that will have the opportunity for growth. We should return to this kind of starting point in our thinking. This was the foremost theme of this year’s APEC meeting.

It has been almost 30 years since APEC was born through the advocacy of Japan. The global flow of people, goods, and information has expanded dramatically and also deepened. It has been this Asia-Pacific region that has been the biggest beneficiary of the merits of free trade.

While the global economy now faces tremendous downside risk, we will not on any account move backward. I feel that at this year’s APEC meeting we succeeded in showing the world the firm determination of the countries of Asia and the Pacific to promote free trade.

All manner of people are able to benefit from free and open markets. In order to make that possible, we must hasten to build a society in which all people can be dynamically engaged. We need transparent and fair rules so that the efforts of those who work hard will be properly rewarded.

The TPP Agreement is an ambitious attempt to create in the Pacific region an economic zone based on such free and fair rules. At the TPP leaders’ meeting, all of the TPP member nations again shared a common determination to follow through on that challenge. In Japan the draft TPP Agreement recently passed the House of Representatives, and going forward, we will continue to make all-out efforts toward concluding the agreement at the earliest possible time by providing extremely thoroughgoing explanations.

APEC brings together the leaders of 21 countries and regions. Taking advantage of this opportunity, I actively held talks with a number of the leaders.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia and I reached agreement on a concrete work plan concerning our eight points of economic cooperation as we kept our sights on Mr. Putin’s visit to Yamaguchi Prefecture next month. We also confirmed that we will further advance our consultations leading toward a peace treaty. Concluding a peace treaty that has eluded us for more than 70 years will be no easy task, but I want us to make progress steadily, step by step, grounded in the relationship of trust that the two of us share.

Although our talks were short, I also met with President Xi Jinping of China. We confirmed that we will improve our bilateral relationship as we head toward the 45th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China, which we will commemorate in 2017, and the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the Japan-China Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which we will mark in 2018.

I also extended my thanks to President Barack Obama, the leader of Japan’s sole ally the U.S. and my foremost partner over the past four years, honoring the efforts he has made to reinforce the Japan-U.S. alliance. This year, the 71st year since the end of World War II, President Obama made the first-ever visit by a sitting president of the U.S. to Hiroshima, the site of an atomic bombing, sending out a strong and future-oriented message of a “world free of nuclear weapons.”

The world continues to face a wide range of challenges, including terrorism, poverty, and infectious diseases. Until now, at present, and into the future, Japan and the U.S. will take on these kinds of issues together, hand in hand, as an “alliance of hope.”

I will end my opening statement here.

Questions and Answers

REPORTER (HARA, NHK): Mr. Prime Minister, as you mentioned in your opening statement, within the series of meetings and bilateral talks you had during this trip, you appealed for an approach of adhering to free trade going forward, including through the TPP Agreement. However, as we have seen in the U.S. presidential election and elsewhere, the trend toward protectionism is spreading, and domestically too, concerns and criticisms have arisen that disparity is increasing and not all the population is reaping the benefits. How do you intend to tackle such concerns and criticisms going forward?

Also, some TPP member nations have voiced the opinion that member countries should aim for the agreement’s entry into force despite the U.S. not participating. Do you agree or disagree with such an approach? Moreover, U.S. President-elect Trump has said that the U.S. will withdraw from the TPP. Do you think there is any possibility that Mr. Trump will change his approach?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I believe adhering to and further developing free and fair trade will create suitable economic opportunities for not only large corporations but also small- and medium-sized enterprises, workers, and consumers, and is a source of global economic growth.

However, concerns that the benefits of free trade will not be shared equally or that disparity will increase are leading to protectionism.

The Abe administration has been working to bring about a society in which all citizens are dynamically engaged. In that society, disparities do not become entrenched and people with all kinds of backgrounds and situations can demonstrate their experience and ability to the full and live actively.

I also believe that we can gain support for free trade as people get rewarded for their hard work and perceive the benefits of growth in tangible ways broadly across society.

Incidentally, the relative poverty rate, based on the National Survey of Family Income and Expenditure published at the end of October, has declined for the first time ever since the calculation of the rate began. In particular, the relative poverty rate for children improved dramatically. There had been some criticism that Abenomics was exclusively focused on growth and too committed only to achieving growth, but that is not the case at all. I believe it has now been demonstrated that our economic policies have also been effective in reducing economic disparity within society. In the future, I plan to continue to push forward firmly with this policy. I wish to make a society in which we grow and create wealth that is distributed broadly among the people, with many people able to enjoy the benefits of growth.

At the TPP leaders’ meeting we just convened, we reconfirmed the high degree of strategic and economic value of the TPP Agreement. Not a single TPP member country intended to delay its domestic procedures or abandon the agreement in response to the situation that has emerged since the U.S. presidential election. In addition to making all-out efforts to ensure that the agreement is approved in the current session of the Diet, I intend to take advantage of every possible opportunity to urge the other signatories to complete their domestic procedures at an early time.

As for the view of aiming to have the TPP enter into force without the United States participating, there was no discussion about that at all at the 12-member meeting. The TPP is meaningless without the participation of the United States. In the same way that a renegotiation would be impossible, the fundamental balance of interests would be ruined.

As for the direction being set by the new U.S. administration, I will refrain at this stage from making any comments that would be conjecture.

REPORTER (SOLTIS, BUENOS AIRES HERALD): I also had the honor to ask you a question here on your last visit back in 2013, when the reason of your visit was extremely obvious: to back Tokyo’s successful bid for the 2020 Olympic Games. This time the purposes of your visit are perhaps not quite as obvious, or they can be guessed. Would you like to explain in your own words the aims and motives of your visit, in addition to what you have already said?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: The purpose of my visit three years ago was to attend the International Olympic Committee (IOC) session to bring the Olympic and Paralympic Games to Tokyo. At that time, we did not know which of us would become the host city until the very final moment and we waited for the announcement by the IOC President in an atmosphere of great suspense. The announcement of “Tokyo! Tokyo!” is fresh in my memory even now. I recall the exuberance of that moment along with the beautiful cityscape of Buenos Aires.

My current visit is an official visit to Argentina, the first by a sitting Japanese prime minister in 57 years, and one filled with deep emotion for me. In our summit talks just now, President Macri and I had a highly meaningful and significant exchange of views. I believe Argentina’s free and open economic policies and proactive measures under President Macri are receiving attention not only from Japan but also from around the world. I think that a large number of world leaders have visited your country this year, including President Obama.

In that context, I truly wish to change dramatically the Japan-Argentine bilateral relationship, which had been at a standstill, and I intend to do this together with President Macri. I think we can say that our bilateral relations are truly ushering in opportunities for rapid development. Taking this opportunity, we agreed to strengthen our relations further as we build up a strategic partnership. This morning I had the opportunity to meet Japanese descendants living here.

They have been firmly settled down in Argentina for a long time and spread their roots here. I consider the presence of Japanese descendants who have worked hard and contributed to the development of the region to be a valuable asset for both our countries.

That is what I reconfirmed during this visit. In that sense, I feel that Japan and Argentina have a special relationship. In the future, we will work to improve bilateral trade and investment as well as the business environment. A really large number of Japanese and Argentine business persons attended the business forum we just held here as well. From now, we will be able to look forward to Japan and Argentina developing in the area of the economy as well.

REPORTER (YOSHIDA, TOKYO SHIMBUN): In your talks with President Putin of Russia, you discussed the issue of the Northern Territories, and I would like to inquire about that. Mr. Prime Minister, you stated again now that resolution of this problem will not be easy. As you have mentioned, “a solution acceptable to both sides” will be necessary to resolve this issue. In the search for a solution until now, a proposal for the early return of the Habomai island group and Shikotan island has emerged. Do you have any intention of including the proposal for the early return of these two islands, or other proposals involving these two islands, among your options for the future? I realize that nothing has been decided yet; I am asking if they are among the options that could be considered.

Also, after your meeting with President Putin, Mr. Putin remarked that the topic of “joint economic activities” in the Northern Territories arose during your talks. Regarding this, I would like to know if such a topic did actually arise during your one-on-one talks with Mr. Putin. In addition, do you consider “joint economic activities” to be something that the Government of Japan could examine? Those are my three questions.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Your question contained a number of specific, concrete statements, but nothing has changed in the government’s position until now regarding the Northern Territories. That is something I wish to state very clearly.

The issue of a peace treaty between Japan and Russia is still unresolved even 70 years since the end of the war. As that situation indicates, it is not something that can be resolved through just a single summit meeting. It is not such a simple task.

It is an issue that will not be resolved without a relationship of trust between the leaders. I intend to move forward on the matter steadily, step by step, through direct exchanges between myself and President Putin.

I am not able to talk about the contents of the consultations now underway, but I am firmly convinced that as for the future development of the Four Northern Islands, it is a matter of the utmost importance that Japan and Russia further our discussions in a manner that is “win-win” for both of us.

Given that, I consider it vital to move forward regarding peace treaty negotiations as well while we develop Japan-Russia bilateral relations as a whole, including in terms of the economy, in a manner that benefits both nations.