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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

“Rising Asia: Messages for the Next 20 Years” Speech by Prime Minister Abe at the 20th International Conference on The Future of Asia

Thursday, May 22, 2014

[Provisional Translation]

  1.  Introduction
  2.  “Asia” as a synonym for “rapid progress” and another name for “the power to advance”
  3.  The fundamental motivation for Abenomics
  4.  Reforms are moving forward
  5.  The good fortune 2020 will bring
  6.  Tokyo will change
  7.  The high acclaim Tokyo has received
  8.  From the TPP to the RCEP
  9.  A society in which women shine, and heading towards the future

1. Introduction
Thank you very much for your kind introduction.
I would like to express my sincere appreciation for having been invited to address you both this year and at this same occasion last year.
It is an honour to see the leaders of various Asian countries and international organizations, as well as from the business community both in Japan and overseas, who are in attendance here.

2. “Asia” as a synonym for “rapid progress” and another name for “the power to advance”
I understand that this year, “The Future of Asia” symposium is auspiciously commemorating the 20th year since its inauguration.
Looking back, we see that for Asia, these 20 years have been both eventful and fraught with challenges.  The end of the 1990’s was marked by an enormous financial crisis.  The year 2008 saw a global contraction in the money market.
In the intervals, Asia experienced tsunamis, immense earthquakes, and enormous typhoons.
What has overcome anything and everything has been the power of Asia and the achievements of Asia.
Since 1995, per capita GDP in Lao PDR has grown to roughly four times its original figure.  Mongolia and Viet Nam have seen theirs expand six-fold.
“Asia” is a synonym for “rapid progress.”  It is another name for “the power to advance.”  Do you not agree that it is symbolic of the hopes and dreams in which people believe that today will be brighter than yesterday, and that tomorrow will be even brighter than today?
Let all of us attending tonight side by side first of all together fully celebrate the achievements of this Asia, which, over these twenty years, has faced a great number of trials and difficulties, and yet never stopped moving forward step after step. 

3. The fundamental motivation for Abenomics
As Asia sustained its rapid progress, the single exception was my country, Japan.
Young people who were 20 years old 20 years ago are now 40, at the prime of their lives and in the midst of their child-raising years.  In that respect, there is no difference between being 40 years of age in Japan or in Indonesia.
However, there is a certain impact of growth upon the 40-year-old in Indonesia.  I presume there must surely be an acute sense of this in a country that has attained growth of 3.4 times in terms of per capita GDP.
And how about 40-year-olds in Japan, in contrast?  Well, the group now under 40 may be a unique generation, in that the thrill of growth has been largely removed from their experiences.
I would like for this generation, which will shoulder the responsibilities of Japan’s future, to possess the power to move forward confidently and with their heads held high as a member of an Asia that symbolizes hopes, rapid progress, pride, power, and dreams.
I wish to make this into a generation that holds quiet self-confidence in and responsibility towards themselves while harbouring hopes and dreams for the future.
That is the responsibility of us politicians.   I firmly believe that this is my critical duty above all else, incumbent upon me as prime minister. 
What I am relating to you is the very bottom line of the motivation for myself and my Cabinet to undertake Japan’s economic reconstruction with such singleness of purpose.

4. Reforms are moving forward
I will state to you tonight that reforms are moving forward.
The National Strategic Economic Growth Areas that were still in the planning stage when I spoke here a year ago are now transitioning into the stage of implementation.
By precisely the time the Olympic Games come to Tokyo, electric power companies’ regional monopolies, which have endured for 60 years, will be thoroughly shattered.
We have already begun an overhaul of our medical care system.
We will also press forward with reforms to our agriculture industry.
We will review our labour regulations, adjusting them to the new ways of working appropriate for this era.
We will make Japan a place where non-Japanese brimming with ability will find it easier to be more dynamically engaged.
We will improve our corporate taxation still further.
Our corporate governance structures have also changed dramatically.
Moreover, we are making forward-looking reforms to our Government Pension and Investment Fund, the world's largest pension fund with more than US$1.2 trillion under management.
We will pursue openness that will open up the country.
We will also cultivate the spirit of taking on challenges, through which people undertake new ventures or challenging endeavours without fearing the risks involved.
And we will foster the innovation that brings forth new products as well as organizations and services that no one has ever dreamt up before.
When I inaugurated my administration I stated that these three points would become the keys for rebuilding Japan.
Next month, concrete programs that will further reinforce the “third arrow” of Abenomics will come out.
The guiding philosophy providing direction will continue to be the three points I just mentioned.

5. The good fortune 2020 will bring
I have always been eager to make Japan’s younger generation vibrant.  Because I have felt that way, the most gratifying thing for me in the more than 500 days that I have been serving as prime minister has been successfully inviting the Olympic and Paralympic Games to Tokyo once again.
When you work hard with commitment, a good outcome is certain to appear.  Your efforts will surely be rewarded.
In the days when Asia was regarded as a region that was still very poor rather than as a growth engine, Japan, counting on this lively optimism, had the flame of Olympia come to Tokyo exactly half a century ago.
I was one of those who grew up with that vibrancy and strength of conviction that “you can certainly succeed if you try” deeply entrenched into my mind.  These feelings were thoroughly infused into the Japanese of that era.
I would like to restore to Japan’s younger generation the “can-do” self-confidence that Japanese used to have.
The more wholeheartedly I felt this, the more I simply couldn’t help but aspire to invite, and be intent on inviting, the Olympic Games back to Tokyo one more time.
Fortunately, your cordial support provided momentum for us, and the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will indeed come to Tokyo.
Through this, we can change the colour of the future somewhat, from an opaque charcoal gray to a brighter colour, can we not?  In fact, we have become able to take an optimistic view.

6. Tokyo will change
I very much hope that you witness Japan’s upcoming transformation.
For example, from now, we will completely change the face of the area from Marunouchi to Otemachi and into Nihonbashi—the area that is Tokyo’s business centre as well as its financial hub.
Beautiful promenades lined with trees will transverse the center of the area.  These areas will be even more bustling than they are now, with crowds of people coming to enjoy a meal or shopping, in addition to the area’s businessmen and women.
In the seasons in which Tokyo’s blue skies are strikingly cloudless and clear, a large number of people from overseas who have come for sightseeing or who have come to pursue their carreers will be relaxing at open-air cafés here and there.
An enormous water purification system that will be set underneath one of the buildings will also, I hear, circulate and clean the water in the moat surrounding the Imperial Palace.
When that comes to be, then the Imperial moat will become a place where people can enjoy to their hearts’ content the sight of varicolored carp, gold and silver, swimming leisurely, along with the water brilliantly reflecting the rays of the sun.
I imagine that as a business and financial centre, this area will become a corner blessed with the water and the greenery and will look like no other financial district in the world.
Our dreams will only expand.

7. The high acclaim Tokyo has received
As I was thinking about this, I encountered some gratifying news.
Among a number of international cities, Tokyo ranks first against a yardstick measuring whether or not the city attracts talented human resources and cultivates creativity.
This was the news that, out of the 135 cities covered in this survey, Tokyo grandly outranked all the others in its overall score, which assessed the cities across 10 dimensions in all, covering such areas as public transport, technology, and international impact.
This was the result of a survey conducted by IESE Business School in Spain.
London ranked second while New York came third, followed by Zurich, Paris, Geneva, and Basel.  Osaka also ranked eighth.
To be very frank with you, I am truly delighted to have been evaluated so highly.
However, I intend to interpret this as encouragement—as all the more reason to do our best.
I have taken this as an incentive to develop cities that are open to the world outside Japan, and cities—and, indeed, a country—where people with physical disabilities, young couples working hard to raise their children, and people from overseas pursuing their careers can all feel pleased to live.
More than anything, I feel that this has taught me that the path of repeatedly making efforts that will enable us to open up the country further and incorporate the growth of Asia as our own is one highway that leads to the future.

8. From the TPP to the RCEP
In order to make Japan’s reforms succeed, we must introduce novel catalysts and cause new “chemical reactions” to occur all around.
One of those catalysts will be a further opening of the economy.
It was that exact thought that led me to conclude an economic partnership agreement, or “EPA,” between the ten countries of ASEAN as a whole and Japan seven years ago, when I was in charge of the administration.
And last month, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and I reached agreement in principle on an EPA between Japan and Australia, which at one time quite a number of people would have given up on, claiming it would be highly unlikely even after continuing negotiations for seven years starting from that point.
We now have great expectations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, or “TPP.”
I believe that building markets that are both deep and wide and dynamic markets that respect rules and the rule of law is also incumbent upon Japan, which has a democracy and industries that are highly developed.  I intend for us to introduce to the negotiations a momentum of an entirely different dimension from what has come until now.
Then, in addition to the TPP, the challenges of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or “RCEP,” and the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, also known as the “FTAAP,” lie beyond that.
I feel that the time has now come to take a great step forward.
I believe without a doubt that that is the steadfast course ahead for Japan.

9. A society in which women shine, and heading towards the future
When I delivered an address last month in the City, London’s financial district, I explained that Japan has now begun to see examples of women assuming the post of CEO, becoming chairperson of the board, and so on, citing the examples of Nomura Trust and Banking and Mizuho Financial Group.
Companies at which male employees with newborn babies have all taken childcare leave have also started to appear.  I believe that Japan has steadily begun its transition towards becoming a society in which women shine.
I, and my Cabinet, intend to bring about reforms one after the other so that young men and women can experience both the joys of child rearing and the pursuit of a career, or a lifestyle in which neither of these needs to be compromised.
I have spoken to you this evening about “Asia” as a synonym for “rapid progress” and “Asia” as another name for “great achievers.”
In order to make Asia a place that is more prosperous and free and gives greater respect to the creativity of individuals, Japan has power it can display as well as a role that it should play.
That is what Abenomics is for.  In order to achieve this, I will not flinch from challenges, nor will I be afraid of reform.  Moreover, I will continue to walk forward always listening intently and humbly to your voices while bearing proper gravitas.  I wish to end my address to you this evening by making that pledge to you.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.


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