"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] Address by Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori at the Discussion Group on the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, Okinawa Summit

[Date] June 5, 2000
[Source] http://www.g8kyushu-okinawa.go.jp/e/theme/0605.html
[Full text]

I would like at the outset to express my heartfelt appreciation to all of you for taking time out of your busy schedules to gather here today at this Discussion Group on the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit.

Recognising that the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit is the most important schedule in Japan's current diplomatic calendar, I engaged in a frank and open exchange of views concerning the Summit with the Leaders of G8 countries during the Golden Week holiday. During these meetings, I proposed to the Leaders of the G8 countries that the basic theme for the Summit be what we as the G8 must do in order to achieve "greater prosperity," "peace of mind" and "world stability" in the 21st century, with which all the Leaders expressed their agreement.

Under this theme, today we shall focus our discussion on the three specific agenda items, namely IT, infectious diseases and food safety, in which G8 countries have expressed strong interest. I hope to hear the frank opinions of all participants, who have considerable insight into these areas.

Before hearing the comments of all of you gathered here today, I would first like to say a few brief words of my own on these three issues.


The first of these issues is information technology, or IT. I proposed to the G8 Leaders to position IT, which is playing the core role in the structural changes in the global economy, as the central theme of the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit. In this regard, I was able to receive firm support from most of the Leaders. IT is a key to building dynamism in the socio-economy as a whole toward the 21st century, and I believe that the use of IT will contribute to further development not only in developed countries, but also in developing countries, especially in such areas as education and healthcare. IT is expected to facilitate communication with people all over the world, and to allow for deeper understanding of other cultures. Moreover, it is steadily effecting change in our daily lives. A fine example of this effect is e-mail, which enables us to instantly communicate with families living far away or to receive a photograph of a beloved grandchild. IT, then, surely plays a key role in strengthening links between people in a society of increasing nuclear families and ever-advancing ageing.

In relation to IT, the problem of the "digital divide" has been highlighted by many people. Though it is vitally important to address the problem of the digital divide, we must look at IT more positively from the perspective of the "digital opportunity" offered by IT. This is why, in Okinawa, I wish to engage in substantive discussion with Leaders on what the G8 can do to shape a bright future in which each and everybody, from an eight-year old child to an eighty-year old person, can make the fullest use of IT. With a view to soliciting the opinions of business leaders who are competing at the cutting edge of IT business, I shall be hearing proposals from eminent world business leaders, including from Japan, in the lead-up to the Summit. Furthermore, as a person who has consistently focused efforts towards issues related to education, I would also like to touch upon the strengthening of education and training tailored to the demands of the IT age. Naturally, we must also give serious consideration to what help we can provide to enable developing countries, including those of Asia, to achieve rapid development fully utilising IT.

In this context, and as the G8 Presidency, Japan is considering a comprehensive package of assistance in order to exert leadership in the co-operation with developing countries. Some developing countries have already made considerable progress in the introduction of IT, as can be evidenced in some of the ASEAN countries, but the situation varies from country to country. Given this situation, Japan intends to make this package of assistance diverse and flexible in a way that complements active private sector initiatives. To be more specific, the package of assistance will embrace four pillars: (1) intellectual assistance towards formulation of policy and institution building while working to improve the recognition that IT is also a golden opportunity for developing countries; (2) human resource development assistance focused on training and education; (3) assistance for the development of telecommunications infrastructures and networking; and (4) promotion of the use of IT through development assistance.

I hope that "Okinawa" will be seen as a Summit which squarely addresses the IT revolution on a global scale.

Infectious diseases

I would now like to move on to the issue of infectious diseases. The number of persons infected with the AIDS virus in sub-Saharan Africa is said to be 23.3 million, and the three major infectious diseases of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are destroying a vast number of precious lives throughout the world, most notably in developing countries. Furthermore, tuberculosis is rifest in Asia. As can be seen by these facts, the issue of infectious diseases is not an issue for a limited number of people in developing countries, but has become a major problem that significantly affects the development of the economy as a whole.

It is my firm belief that infectious diseases are not totally beyond our control if the G8 countries co-operate together and strengthen their efforts by mobilising existing medical, technical and financial resources. In achieving this objective, "new partnerships" must be built. In other words, we must create a framework in which all relevant actors, including the governments of developed countries, NGOs, private companies and international organisations, work together and support the efforts of developing countries to take measures for combating infectious diseases. While I understand that this is no simple undertaking, I do believe that it would be extremely beneficial to make that first step in building such "new partnerships" in Okinawa.

Food safety

Finally, I would like to comment on the issue of food safety, which mainly concerns genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It is well known that that there have been conflicting opinions in the United States and Europe on this issue. All countries do, however, share the position that international rules based on scientific underpinning should be stablished on the treatment of GMOs. At the same time, since a great deal of time is taken to conduct scientific analysis, positions on regulations on GMOs significantly differ from those who adopt the "benefit of the doubt" approach and those who adopt the precautionary approach.

I believe that biotechnology, together with IT, is a key to ensuring the prosperity of humanity in the 21st century. The issue of how to best make use of the immense potential of biotechnology while giving due consideration to its impact on the environment and health and the concerns of consumers, is an enormously important one that cannot be resolved overnight. Studies have been conducted after the Cologne Summit by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and others, and issues are being sorted out. I hope that we will be able to find a common direction in Okinawa.

Bringing to an end my brief comments on IT, infectious diseases and food safety, I would now like to invite the unreserved opinions of all of you here today concerning what efforts Japan should make toward the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, including on the issues I have raised. Your remarks will serve as a useful reference in our future deliberations. Thank you very much.