"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] Speech by Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio at the "Future of Asia" Forum

[Date] May 23, 2024
[Source] Cabinet Public Affairs Office, Cabinet Secretariat
[Notes] Provisional translation
[Full text]

My name is Fumio Kishida, and I am Prime Minister of Japan. Distinguished guests, allow me to extend my warmest congratulations to all those responsible for this successful Future of Asia forum.

I am greatly honoured to welcome the esteemed leaders of Asian countries to Japan and to address you at this banquet again this year.

1.Introduction: Kishida's diplomacy at a historic turning point

I understand that the theme for this year's Future of Asia forum is "Asian Leadership in an Uncertain World". I believe this is a very timely theme. The international community is currently at a historic turning point, facing compound crises, including the prolonged aggression of Russia against Ukraine, rising tensions in the Middle East, and humanitarian crises exacerbated by ongoing conflicts. Against this backdrop, Asia is further strengthening its presence as a growth center driving the global economy, and it is no exaggeration to say that the future of Asia now determines the future of the world.

Our role is to actively shape an Asia and a world where human dignity is respected, and a free and open international order based on the rule of law is maintained and strengthened, ensuring that we pass these values on to future generations. Japan has been fostering stronger ties with the countries of the Global South, including those of Asia, with the aim of guiding the world toward cooperation rather than division and confrontation. This vision has been consistently advocated in various international forums. Today, I would like to discuss the three main thrusts of my administration's diplomacy: (1) promoting cooperation within this region, (2) addressing new economic and social challenges through our cooperation, and (3) developing collaboration beyond the region.

2. Advancing a new plan for a "Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)"

Last March, I announced a new plan for the "Free and Open Indo-Pacific" or FOIP. Since then, we have steadily expanded cooperation with the Southeast Asian, South Asian, and Pacific Islands regions, which we have designated as "key areas", with the aim of achieving overall regional growth.

(1) Southeast Asia

(Trusted Partners)

Prime Minister Anwar of Malaysia and Prime Minister Srettha of Thailand are present at today's banquet. Japan and Southeast Asian countries have long enjoyed a relationship of mutual trust, characterized by "heart-to-heart" connections. In a public opinion survey conducted in ASEAN countries by a prominent Singaporean think tank, Japan has been selected as the most trusted partner of ASEAN among major powers for six consecutive years since the survey began. Japan will continue to cooperate with Southeast Asian countries in order to further strengthen these relations and ensure their continuity for future generations.

(Vision of "co-creation")

In December last year, we held the Commemorative Summit for the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation here in Tokyo. At this summit, we set forth a vision of "co-creation" wherein Japan and ASEAN would collaborate as "Trusted Partners" to tackle shared challenges and collectively shape the future economy and society.

In this spirit of "co-creation", we will accelerate growth throughout the region. In addition to strengthening connectivity, such as enhancing supply chain resilience and advancing green transformation toward decarbonization, we will formulate flagship projects in future-oriented sectors such as next-generation automobiles and digital technologies. Together, we will envision future growth with Asia as the focal point.

(Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Connectivity Initiative)

In the "Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Connectivity Initiative", which I launched in September last year, I announced our intention to promote efforts to strengthen connectivity in a wide range of areas, including electricity connectivity, human and knowledge connectivity, as well as transport infrastructure development. To date, cooperation has made steady progress, including additional financing for railroad and road construction in Vietnam and the Philippines, and the start of the "Co-creation for Common Agenda Initiative" in the digital sector with Cambodia. Cooperation, such as the provision of large patrol vessels to Indonesia, will also enhance the maritime law enforcement capacity of each country and lead to the resilience of maritime connectivity.

(Human resources network)

For fostering mutual trust, building a "human resources network" across generations is also crucial. Last year, we invited young business leaders and entrepreneurs from ASEAN countries to Japan, and I personally engaged in direct conversations with them. In order to nurture the friendships that have been formed into strong bonds, this year we will once again extend invitations to young leaders from ASEAN countries to Japan to have intensive discussions on the future of Japan and ASEAN.

(2) South Asia

We will also strengthen cooperation and collaboration with South Asian countries. The development of an Industrial Value Chain connecting the Bay of Bengal and North Eastern Region of India, as outlined in the new plan for a FOIP, aims to bolster both hard and soft connectivity. In addition, it seeks to promote private investment and foster business and industry throughout the entire region in cooperation with Bangladesh and India. We believe that this initiative will benefit Japanese industry as well.

(3) Pacific Island countries

It is also crucial to maintain close ties with the Pacific Island countries, which face risks such as sea level rise due to climate change and natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions. Collaborating with them is essential to addressing issues such as isolation and remoteness. We will further intensify our efforts in alignment with the "2050 Strategy", leveraging the 10th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM 10) that Japan will host in Tokyo in July of this year.

3. Efforts to address challenges in new areas

As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, the international community is at a historic turning point. This is especially true not only in the realm of international politics but also in areas directly impacting our daily lives. In addition to increasingly serious issues such as climate change and infectious diseases, we are confronted with challenges stemming from advancements in science and information technology, including AI, which are distinct in nature from those of the past. In Asia, we must also address emerging social challenges. Some regions of Japan, the Republic of Korea, and China have already begun to experience declining birthrates and rapidly aging populations at an unprecedented pace. Our ability to overcome these challenges, in other words, to demonstrate resilience, will depend on our ability to think outside the box.

(1) Asia Zero Emission Community (AZEC)

First, we will work together within the Asian region to promote the new initiative called "Green Transformation, GX". Japan has launched the "Asia Zero Emission Community (AZEC)" platform, aiming at the common goal of "net zero emissions through various pathways according to each country's circumstances". We hosted the first Leaders Meeting in Tokyo last December.

We will convene the second Ministerial Meeting in Jakarta in August of this year to further concretize AZEC's efforts, with a view to hosting a future Leaders Meeting. This meeting will launch initiatives for AZEC-wide collaboration on technology, finance, institutions, and human resources in the power, transport, and industrial sectors, which are key to decarbonization.

Furthermore, we will launch the Asia Zero Emission Center at the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA). Based on the insights gained from GX, which is just beginning to gain traction in Japan, we will advocate for the establishment of rules for assessing CO2 emission reductions, the dissemination of transition finance in Asia, and the exchange of policy methods to stimulate investment. We will also contribute to the region's decarbonization by promoting specific cooperation projects such as carbon-neutral industrial parks, hydrogen production, and ammonia single-firing.

(2) Next generation automobiles

The automotive industry is a symbol of the longstanding economic partnership between Japan and ASEAN countries. A number of Japanese companies have set up operations in these countries, contributing significantly to local economies and employment. We cannot afford not to overlook the wealth of experience and investments established by our predecessors and colleagues.

The global automotive industry is currently undergoing a wave of revolutionary change. The next decade will be crucial in determining who emerges victorious in this competition. To ensure ASEAN maintains its central position in the world's next-generation automotive industry, we will collaborate with ERIA to develop the first "Automotive Strategy for the Next 10 Years to 2035", which we will present this fall.

In this context, we will present our perspective on the global automotive market in 2035, drawing on ERIA's expertise. Then, based on the global market outlook, we will develop a strategy to realize a "production and export hub for a diverse range of automobiles, from hybrids to EVs", and connect this with specific initiatives with each country.

(3) Digital sphere

Along with GX, another area that will test our abilities to think boldly is the digital sphere, which serves as both the engine of growth and a solution to social issues in Southeast Asia. Japan will contribute to the creation of a safe and secure digital society, tailored to the circumstances of each country. We will further fortify the foundations underpinning digital technology, encompassing cyber security, 5G/Open RAN, submarine cables, data centers, and the semiconductor industry.

AI is accelerating the digital transformation (DX). Last year, I initiated the "Hiroshima AI Process" as the G7 chair. At the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting, I kicked off the Hiroshima AI Process Friends Group, with the participation of 49 countries and regions, including Asian countries such as India, Laos, Singapore, and Thailand. We will promote cooperation to ensure that people all over the world can reap the benefits of utilizing safe, secure, and trustworthy AI.

Young forces are driving the rapid development of AI technology. Many companies, including startups in Japan and ASEAN, are working on AI development. We will strongly encourage these companies to contribute to the establishment of AI infrastructure rooted in the culture and language of each country for future AI utilization in the Asian region.

The key lies in "data sharing and utilization". The "Ouranos Ecosystem" has been launched as an initiative for data sharing and system integration across companies, industries, and national borders. As a first step, through the Ouranos Ecosystem, data on CO2 emissions during the manufacture of automotive batteries, for example, can now be seamlessly calculated across companies. We are committed to constructing Interoperable Data Infrastructures of unparalleled security and reliability, capable of global integration across diverse companies and industries. Our mission is to facilitate the smooth transmission of vital information to relevant parties, and to promote the widespread use of such data infrastructure among Asian countries.

The foundation supporting these DX initiatives is humanity itself. We will formulate a comprehensive program aimed at nurturing talent in AI and semiconductors. Collaborating with ASEAN our goal is to cultivate 100,000 highly-skilled digital professionals over the next five years, propelling our collective progress in the digital age. In promoting these initiatives, ERIA will serve as a hub connecting industry, government, and academia, and will collaborate closely with engineering universities in ASEAN countries.