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Joint Press Conference Following the Japan-Central America Summit Meeting
August 18, 2005
[Opening Statement by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]
Today I was able to hold a meeting with the leaders of the seven Central American countries for the first time in Tokyo. I cordially welcome the visit to Japan by these leaders of the Central American countries and am pleased to have been able to hold such a worthwhile meeting.
This year is the "Japan-Central America Year 2005." There are, as we speak, various commemorative events being held in a broad range of areas. The Central American countries are jointly participating in the EXPO 2005 Aichi, Japan as well. I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude for their participation.
Tomorrow is the Central America Day at the EXPO 2005, which is being held over a six-month period from March to September. Moreover, today was a memorable day as the number of visitors to the EXPO exceeded 15 million, which was the target for the entire six-month period. I am pleased to have been able to hold a meeting with the leaders of the Central American countries for the first time on such a memorable day. I would also like to add that our meeting was a very fruitful one.
The Central American countries are starting to gain a stronger voice in the international community as progress is seen in regional integration. I expect that the Central American countries will develop into a highly reliable partner for Japan.
Japan intends to provide assistance for the integration of Central American countries in a proactive manner and expects that this integration will contribute to stability and development in the region.
Japan's asset is human resources development, or simply human resources. It was brought to my attention at today's meeting that the Central American countries are attaching importance to education and human resources development. In addition to the bilateral cooperation, Japan has been providing thus far, I believe that Japan can strengthen regional assistance to the Central American region as a whole, which is facing common development challenges. There are also many things Japan can do for education and human resources development in Central America.
I am happy to learn that the concept of economic exchanges and tourism as well as the "spirit of the one hundred sacks of rice" are being shared in the Central American countries. This is indicative of their strong interest in Japan's education practices as well as strong awareness on the importance of human resources development and education. In this connection, Japan intends to invite approximately 1,000 young people from the Central American countries over the next five-year period.
Furthermore, Japan and the Central American countries should not limit the cooperation among themselves. We should further cooperate in the international community. Japan and the Central American countries must and can cooperate in dealing with the global issues, such as the United Nations (UN) reform, World Trade Organization (WTO), International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the environment.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the warm support shown by the Central American countries towards Japan's efforts for the UN reform and for our bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
The "Tokyo Declaration" adopted at today's meeting is entitled "Japan and Central America, Friends United Toward the Future." I intend to further strengthen the friendly and cooperative relations between Japan and the Central American countries into the future in accordance with this declaration and the "Action Plan".
I would like to once again thank everyone who attended the meeting today.
Thank you very much. Good evening to all of you.
In this year that marks the 70th anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Central American countries, we were able to hold a second meeting, of great historic importance, between the Central American Integration System member and associate member countries (Sistema de Integraci?n Centroamericana: SICA) and Japan, a country which is our very good friend.
Today we were reassured that our relations with Japan in trade, economy, investment and other areas are proceeding in a very positive manner.
We intend to strengthen these relations, given the new and ever changing environment, from a political perspective and also in regional and global terms.
Furthermore, the SICA countries deeply appreciate the assistance provided by Japan thus far which has progressed in an extremely positive manner. This assistance has served an extremely significant role in the development of our regional society and economy.
We also discussed cooperation on the political front, or in other words, cooperation in the international arena. I believe that through such efforts, we will be able to further deepen our ties.
In this connection, we shared the view regarding free trade agreements (FTAs), more particularly, FTA between the Dominican Republic, Central America and the United States (DR-CAFTA). This indeed goes together with the FTA among Central American countries and that with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). As such, we plan to create a free trade region in Central America and start our negotiations with the European Union (EU) as well.
Under such circumstances, we have been looking into means of promoting Japanese people's awareness of Central America. Furthermore, it has been agreed at today's meeting to host a special forum to promote investment.
In order to take part in the event held at EXPO 2005, we will be traveling tomorrow. We are scheduled to attend the ceremony for Central America Day. We have united as a region and are introducing our products, the rich diversity we possess as well as our cultural characteristics to the many visitors of EXPO 2005.
We have witnessed the freedom and wealth Japan possesses. Having witnessed this ourselves, we pledge to maintain a cooperative relationship with Japan, reaffirming the strong ties that already bind us together. We will continue to traverse such a path, fully recognizing of the fact that we all are interdependent in a globalized world.
QUESTION: I would like to put this question to Prime Minister Koizumi.
Firstly, as this year has been designated as the "Japan-Central America Year 2005," how do you plan to deepen the mutual understanding between Japan and Central American countries? Next, I would like to ask about the FTA. Following the FTA concluded with Mexico, what is the prospect of concluding an FTA with Central American countries?
Lastly, about the UN reform. What is the importance of the Central American countries for Japan, which is aiming to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council? Furthermore, do you think that Japan has gained an understanding from the Central American countries concerning Japan's position on this issue?
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: With regard to your question about how to deepen the mutual understanding between Japan and the Central American countries, today's meeting with the leaders of the seven Central American countries is one such attempt. While this was the first occasion for all of us to meet in Tokyo, the Central American countries and Japan have enjoyed favorable relations to date. Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement and many areas in which potential can be realized.
It so happens to be Central America Day tomorrow at the EXPO 2005, which has coincided with the cumulative number of visitors to the venue exceeding 15 million people, and the number of visitors continues to grow. I have been told that out of the 15 million, 1.5 million people visited the Central America Pavilion. One in every ten people visited and enjoyed the exhibitions there. I have been told that it is one of the most popular sites at EXPO 2005.
Valuable opinions on various topics including economic cooperation, cultural and youth exchanges as well as tourism, among others were raised at today's meeting, which was the first meeting between Japan and the Central American countries to be held in Tokyo.
Through deepening the above-mentioned exchanges, I expect that Japan will be able to further deepen mutual understanding with the Central American countries.
As for the FTA, we did not have any concrete discussion on this matter. However, as our exchanges advance, trade and investment between the two will develop. Furthermore, the integration of the Central American countries will result in their influence which will be increasing accordingly, and cooperation with Japan will become more important. At this point, however, an FTA is not under consideration.
Regarding the UN reform, Japan has received extremely warm support from the Central American countries on its position. Japan intends to further promote close cooperation with the Central American countries.
QUESTION: This is a question to Prime Minister Koizumi.
What kind of assistance in terms of economic and technical cooperation is the Koizumi administration providing to the government of Honduras, Central American countries and other organizations? This would include investment, for example. What do you think should be done to rectify the trade balance, or imbalance, rather?
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: I was referring to economic and technical cooperation in the future. President Ricardo Maduro Joest mentioned that, he was impressed with the story of "one hundred sacks of rice." The story has been conveyed in a manner of a theater play by the people of Honduras and it has been staged both in Honduras and in other countries. I heard it has been very well received. I have also heard that the people, not only in Honduras but also in neighboring countries, have identified with the spirit of the story of "one hundred sacks of rice" and that there have been moves to spread this story.
The importance of education is not something that only Japan upholds, as was underscored today by the leaders of the Central American countries. I expect that in the future, exchanges in the field of education and cooperation among young people and the younger generations will be exceptionally meaningful in advancing vocational training, cooperation in the field of information technology (IT) and infrastructure improvement.
Moreover, regarding tourism, the Central American countries have much to offer including the beautiful Caribbean Sea, the vestiges of the ancient Mayan civilization and cultural heritage sites. As for the environment, on which Japan places great importance, the Central American countries are endowed with valuable flora and fauna. In this context, I believe we have much to look forward to in terms of exchange as we take advantage of each other's strengths and complement each other in advancing economic and technical cooperation and people-to-people exchanges.
I have heard that progress has been made in economic integration in the Central American countries and its scale as an economic bloc is increasing. It is unfortunate that we, the Japanese public, cannot shed the image we have of the Central American countries being far away. Bearing in mind the FTA with the US, how, in your opinion, do the Central American countries wish to promote economic relations with Japan, especially mutual understanding?
As for UN reform, what are your thoughts on Japan's becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council? Are all the Central American countries aligned in their position with respect to this matter?
VICE PRESIDENT RIZO: Thank you.
In this day and age, I do not believe the Central American countries and Japan are faraway countries since we are already in the era of globalization. As a result, even though we might be thousands of kilometers apart in reality, I do not think this poses an insurmountable barrier for us.
We have a great deal of zest from this perspective. Japan's investment has contributed enormously to the integration of the Central American countries. The Central American countries are enthusiastic about integration. As for reform of the UN, we believe that Japan's becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council is a very legitimate idea, so of course we are willing to support it.
QUESTION: Good evening, Vice President Rizo.
The "Tokyo Declaration" is extremely clear. I think it very plainly states Japan's intention to continue to provide cooperation to the Central American countries and to promote private investment into the region.
On the other hand, you had an opportunity to talk to people from business circles this morning. It appears that there are issues including governability and political stability, and, for many Central American countries, the issue of public safety. How do you evaluate these issues?
VICE PRESIDENT RIZO: Indeed, we are extremely pleased that the "Tokyo Declaration" was signed today.
In other words, the "Tokyo Declaration" demonstrates that this summit meeting was not unduly wordy or just a rubber-stamp meeting, it was in actual fact substantive and productive. Simply put, now that the "Tokyo Declaration" has been signed, what is the next step we should take? The signing of the "Tokyo Declaration" outlined the actions we will take and how we will achieve the goals. In this light, I highly appreciate the signing of the "Tokyo Declaration".
With respect to governability, we believe that the stability of the Central American countries is vital. We also think that this is important for the entire Western Hemisphere as well as for world peace.
Hence it is with this spirit that we agreed to continue strengthening relations between the Central American countries and Japan.