Remarks by H.E. Mr. Naoto Kan,
Distinguished CEOs and corporate executives,
Allow me to extend my most sincere welcome to you as you visit Yokohama and participate in this APEC CEO Summit. It is a true pleasure to have the opportunity to meet you who are active at the very forefront of business and the drivers of the global and regional economies.
The APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting will be convened for two days, over today and tomorrow. Over the 21 years since APEC's founding, the Asia-Pacific region has come to be the most vibrant "growth center" in the world. The environment surrounding us will continue to evolve dynamically in the future. APEC must continue to evolve as well.
This year's APEC meeting is taking up two major themes. The first of these is to advance still further the liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment, which is APEC's core principle, while taking another step forward towards realizing the FTAAP, a free trade area for exchanges of people, goods, and capital. The second is to have the members of APEC share a common recognition of possible courses for growth in order to respond to the new challenges facing the global and regional economies and to achieve sustainable growth. We aim to formulate a growth strategy that will be the first of its kind for APEC.
Holding thoroughgoing discussions with the other APEC leaders regarding the future of this region, I will make my best endeavors as the Chair to deepen our discussions on this matter and emerge with a common understanding. I very much hope to receive robust proposals and proactive cooperation from you in the business community.
Japan strictly restricted its traffic with other countries from the 17th to the 19th centuries, dubbed Japan's period of isolation as a nation. It was some 150 years ago that Japan overcame various difficulties to embark on the opening of the country. Yokohama, where we have gathered today, was one of the ports opened to foreign countries in that era, and it has grown to become one of the best international ports in Japan today. Standing here before you in this very same Yokohama, I would like to state that Japan will once more be opening itself to the world.
Many countries around the world are now "opening up," entering into economic partnership agreements one after the other and forming free trade areas. Frankly speaking, Japan is now getting left behind this global tidal current. It is impossible to conceive of Japan's prosperity except as walking down the path to growth together with the globe, and with the Asia-Pacific region in particular, a region undergoing marked development.
Under the Cabinet decision taken on the 9th of this month entitled "Basic Policy on Comprehensive Economic Partnerships," the Government of Japan will pursue high-level economic partnerships, particularly regarding EPAs (Economic Partnership Agreements) and broader regional economic partnerships that will yield substantial benefits to Japan. Furthermore, regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, Japan will particularly launch consultations with relevant countries while we expeditiously improve the domestic environment.
We will push forward with agricultural reform as we advance free trade. With the aging of Japan's agricultural practitioners, there can be no bright prospects for this sector regardless of trade liberalization if we simply continue on as is. We will aim to have large numbers of youth engaged in agriculture and to foster agriculture that is competitive and is also able to export high-quality food items overseas. Next, by increasing Japan's appeal, we will actively accept from the world excellent talent as well as insights, technologies, products, and investment.
This month the government will compile a comprehensive investment promotion program that will upgrade Japan's business environment to the highest level in the world. I intend to make this a forward-looking agenda by assisting green investment and investment for research and development inbound to Japan as well as by examining the reduction of corporate taxes and the review of systems that constitute barriers for business activities, among other initiatives. A particularly ambitious endeavor will be the establishment of a system for special zones. We will undertake in an integrated and concentrated manner such support measures as special exceptions to regulations in order to bolster pioneering efforts concerning international hubs, logistics and distribution, the environment, and biotechnology and other fields.
Concurrently to this, we will be developing business opportunities outside of Japan so as to grow together with the Asia-Pacific region. As a result of cooperation between the public and private sectors, Japan recently succeeded in reaching an agreement with Viet Nam on the construction of nuclear power facilities and cooperation in the development of rare earth elements and other areas.
Last month, Japan also reached substantive agreement on concluding an EPA with India. In this way Japan is already undergoing a transformation.
I believe that several among you arrived in Japan using Haneda airport, which is now open to international routes. Today, Japan and the US formally signed our "Open Skies" agreement, which includes airports in the capital region. We will extend liberalization of the skies further, focusing particularly on East Asia.
Yet, these changes are still not sufficient. My role is to accelerate Japan's transformation. I would be very pleased if your business opportunities were also to expand as a result. As we carry out this 21st-century opening of Japan, I look forward to you who are conducting global corporate activities participating in investment into Japan as well as research and development.
Before ending my remarks today I would like to extend my thanks once more to Nippon Keidanren, most notably to Chairman Hiromasa Yonekura, for convening such a splendid meeting as this.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.