"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] Remarks by Mr. Aso Taro, Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the 43rd Japan-U.S. Business Conference

[Place] Imperial Hotel, Tokyo
[Date] November 13, 2006
[Source] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
[Full text]

Ms. Katen,

Mr. Ujiie,

friends, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a tremendous honor for me to have the opportunity to address you today.

I am cast from the same mold as you.

I cut my teeth as a manager long ago in Africa, mining diamond and dodging machine gun bullets. Later I had to make a tough decision to shut down our family's coal mining businesses. I think I have learnt a lesson or two through those experiences about how to bite the bullet.

I appreciate all your hard work to adapt your businesses constantly to changing realities and your tireless efforts to gain relevance for the Councils on both sides of the Pacific.

I strongly believe that the Councils have never been more relevant than they are now. I say that for the following three reasons.

First, it is because the US and Japan must work hard together to ensure that the values we cherish prevail. If you think about it, 4% growth in the US economy will create, every 4 years, an economy the size of an entire China. If Japan grows by 2.5%, it amounts to an economy the size of Singapore every year and of Thailand and Indonesia put together every four years. The US and Japan are by far the giants in the Asia-Pacific region. In keeping with this, we must work together to ensure that the rule of law, respect for intellectual property rights, and good governance take deeper root in Asia as a whole as the region grows, and especially in China where the growth has been most astounding.

Second, Japan and the US are at the forefront of technological development. Boeing's all-new Dream Liner 787 is a case in point. It will be the first commercial jet to have its structure made of advanced composite materials, such as carbon. And without involving Japanese companies like Toray the project couldn't have gotten off the ground. New technologies, innovations, and the growth of productivity are what hold the key, especially for Japan, where the population is aging rapidly. Japan is indeed graying, but she can still grow. To demonstrate that, Japan should become a "thought leader" -- a laboratory for the world's generations to come, just as she was in her high-growth era. Member companies of the Councils could and should lead this great experiment down a successful path.

Third, if you look at the Japan-US alliance, it has never been stronger than it is today. Under my guidance, Japan's diplomacy has broadened its range of activities and Japan-US joint efforts have gained more impetus in Afghanistan, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf Region, as well as with NATO and other democratic peers that both of us deem important.

I take seriously what the U.S.-Japan Business Council (USJBC) had to say in its 2006 Policy Statement on Japan-US Economic Partnership Agreement. Ordinary free trade agreements such as those hitting the headlines in the daily press pale in comparison with those between Japan and the US, whose wide-ranging economic integration has long been enshrined in many bilateral treaties.

I recognize the point, though, that the USJBC is urging the Japanese and US governments to pursue a balanced approach to bilateral relations by focusing as much on expanding economic integration as security. I share the view that a strong economic partnership will remain critical for the maintenance of this most enduring bilateral relationship.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I said first that the two of us are big economies that must be committed to spreading the values we both cherish highly. Next I touched on what we can do in the area of technological development. Thirdly I said that we must consider how we can balance the bilateral security relationship with ever more expanding economic integration.

I have said all that with a renewed sense of confidence toward the Japanese economy. The prolonged economic slump is over; instead Japanese companies are now experiencing intensified competition. Japanese companies have become younger as a result of the whole concept of corporate turnaround.

Take for example the Japanese blue chips whose market capitalizations rank among the top 50 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The average age of their CEOs is now 4 years younger than it was six years ago.

Still, to further embrace competition, let us also celebrate foreign direct investment (FDI). FDI brings in not only capital but also dynamism, and almost always intensifies competition. Let us celebrate competition, as that is what makes you strong, and you are all well aware of that fact. I have also found it rewarding that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe views the importance of FDI in exactly the same way as I do.

To conclude, Japan and the United States are bound ever more closely by their shared values. They must work in tandem as guardians of democracy and the free market economy. The tasks for the Councils are no less daunting than they were before, and I once again salute your vigor and courage in tackling them.