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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Abe during his Visit to Latin America and the Caribbean Region

Saturday, August 2, 2014

São Paulo, Brazil
[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Abe:
Bom dia!  Good morning.  This country Brazil, exactly opposite from Japan on the globe, is the sought-after holy ground that Japan’s soccer-playing youth see in their dreams—at this very moment, as it is now the middle of the night in Japan.  Yesterday I was able to meet once more with Mr. Zico, the [former] coach [of Japan’s national team], as well as Mr. Dunga and Mr. Alcind, who [used to] play [in Japan], and many others who contributed so greatly to raising Japan’s soccer to a world-class level.

The Japanese national soccer team is now getting started as “Aguirre Japan,” working towards the FIFA World Cup four years hence.  With my visit here to Brazil, I called on five countries in Latin America and the Caribbean region during this mission, which began in Coach Aguirre’s home country of Mexico.

In each of the five countries I visited, people conveyed vigorously to me “we wish to strengthen our relations with Japan,” saying, “let us further deepen our mutual trust,” and “let us increase our trade and investment further.”

The world is now taking notice of Latin America and the Caribbean region, which are growing remarkably, and countries are racing to strengthen their ties with them.  Japan too has cultivated deep friendships over many years.

The country that invests the most in Chile is Japan. Japanese companies have been actively advancing into Latin America and the Caribbean region since long ago.  Their sincere performance on the job and their advanced technological capabilities are also highly regarded in the locations where they operate.  This region also has some 1.8 million Japanese descendants.  They are truly a major bridge that connects Japan and Latin America and the Caribbean region.

During this visit, I had the pleasure of meeting a great many descendants of Japanese.  Having overcome a history of hardship, they are now active across the entire spectrum of fields, including economics, science, and politics, and seeing this gave me pause for thought.

Here in Brazil, there is an expression “Japonês Garantido,” or “the reliable Japanese.”  That expression is nothing less than the “crystallization of the sweat and tears” over a span of more than a century of the Japanese and their descendants who, having decided that the Latin America and Caribbean region was their new “homeland,” devoted themselves to developing it.

From now, we will develop the historical “kizuna,” or bonds of friendship, between Japan and Latin America and the Caribbean region, bringing it to greater heights.  I consider this visit to have become a “new dawn” in the strategic partnership between Japan and Latin America and the Caribbean region.

My visit to Trinidad and Tobago became the first visit by a Japanese Prime Minister to the Caribbean.

I was able to hold the historic first Japan-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Summit with the leaders of 14 Caribbean states.  With Mexico and Brazil, fellow members of the G20, a world leader, we reached agreement to work together on climate change and other global issues.  Latin America and the Caribbean region are an area with which we share such values as freedom, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law, and an area that has been increasing its influence within the international community in recent years.  The area is an essential partner within my “diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map.”

Japan and a wide range of other nations within the international community must uphold their significant responsibilities within the United Nations.  We came to share in common the need to reform the United Nations.

Japan will contribute to global peace and stability to an even greater extent than before.  I was able to receive the strong support of every country regarding Japan’s “Proactive Contribution to Peace.”

In the Caribbean nation of Haiti, almost 320 thousand people lost their lives because of a major earthquake four years ago.  The activities of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, which participated in UN peacekeeping operations there, are highly regarded even now.

“We are at the mercy of hurricanes and other natural disasters.”  And, “Because we lack resources, our economies are highly vulnerable to crude oil prices.”  Such issues unique to island nations that the Caribbean nations face are serious and can happen to Japan as well.

Japan is also an island nation that has overcome a large number of natural disasters.  By sharing Japan’s technologies and experiences with the Caribbean nations, we will surely be able to contribute to the further development of this region.

My frank opinion is that the Prime Minister of Japan should have carried out a visit to the Caribbean at an earlier time.

With a population of 600 million as well as abundant resources, Latin America and the Caribbean region are now working to develop on a grand scale.  I witnessed the sight of an area truly brimming with signs of growth.

We in Japan have adequate technology and know-how to accommodate those needs.  Japan and Latin America and the Caribbean region are truly “partners for economic growth.”

Sharing that feeling, an economic mission of 250 members in total accompanied me from Japan on this visit.

In Mexico, a decision was reached for Japan also to cooperate in oil development, which until now has been carried out under the principle of domestic production.  In Brazil, Japanese companies have received an order for a São Paulo subway.

As a result of our efforts at the highest levels to expand Japan’s markets overseas, many concrete projects are in progress, and I feel the unmistakable effects of these efforts.

During this mission we also had the participation of mid-sized and SME high-quality manufacturers from Hiroshima and Niigata, Saitama and Tokyo, which hold a top-class market share even in global terms.  We will expand to the global level the stage for the activities of mid-sized enterprises and SMEs that are working hard in their particular local regions.  In the future, I intend to continue carrying forward such support further.

The Economic Partnership Agreement between Japan and Chile that entered into force seven years ago increased Japan’s export of automobiles to Chile by almost 20 per cent.  We in Japan have also become able to purchase wonderful Chilean wines at low prices.  Further activating our trade and investment with Latin America and the Caribbean region will surely bring great benefits both to Japan and to Latin America and the Caribbean region.

In the Pacific, we will create a large economic zone.  Japan agreed with Mexico and Chile to cooperate even more closely towards the early conclusion of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, or “TPP.”  We will also further accelerate negotiations on an Economic Partnership Agreement with Colombia.

What impressed me during this mission was that I had the opportunity to meet with a large number of female leaders, of Brazil, Chile, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica.

I was able to reconfirm that it is the power of women that is the major driving force of Latin America and the Caribbean region, which is now progressing rapidly.

It is now August.  We are only halfway towards pulling out of deflation.  We must make the turnaround of the economy come to be felt tangibly in every corner of Japan.  Going forward, we will also be engaged in the major theme of building up our local regions.

We must also begin work in earnest to prepare the new security legislation.  In order to get off powerfully to a new start, we will move forward on preparations in a composed manner.  This is how I plan for us to conduct ourselves this summer.  I will end my opening statement here.


Questions and answers
I would like to ask about diplomacy towards China and Russia.  Mr. Prime Minister, you have now had effective visits to five continents since taking office, and during this tour as well you received a warm welcome from each country you visited.  However, there is no sign of improvements in relations with China, and Russia is also objecting to new sanctions related to the situation in Ukraine. 

China has indicated a stance of not acceding to requests for a summit meeting unless Japan changes how it handles the issues concerning the Senkaku Islands.  Do you insist firmly on the summit meeting having no preconditions attached?  And do you consider it unavoidable if that makes a summit meeting farther off?

Also, regarding Russia, the United States is strongly urging Japan and other countries to be aligned in their approach to the situation in Ukraine.  Do you intend to actively work towards realizing the visit of President Putin to Japan this autumn?  Do you see a postponement as also being unavoidable depending on the situation?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: First of all, with regard to our bilateral relations with China, I believe that there are many cases worldwide in which countries that are neighbors across the sea or countries that share a common land border face various issues.  However, I believe that is precisely why it is imperative for us to make efforts to have dialogues and resolve these issues going forward.  Many countries have improved their mutual relations or stabilized their situation through those kinds of efforts. 

It is my opinion that Japan-China relations should truly return to the starting point of a “mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests.”  I consider it to be precisely because there are outstanding concerns, and precisely because there are issues, that we should engage in dialogue.  I also believe that it is important for us each to continue to make unostentatious efforts.  I think it would be beneficial to have a Japan-China summit meeting on the occasion of the APEC meeting in Beijing in November.  My door for dialogue is always open, and I would like very much for China to embrace the same stance.

Two hundred and ninety-eight precious lives were lost in the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight.  I believe that we must thoroughly carry out a full accounting of, and an investigation into responsibility for, the downing. Regarding the situation in Ukraine, we will urge Russia to take appropriate actions while continuing to work in cooperation with the other countries of the G7.  For that reason as well, I intend for Japan to maintain good communication with Russia and to play a role towards the peaceful and diplomatic resolution of issues concerning Ukraine. 

As for the schedule of President Putin’s visit to Japan, nothing has been decided at this moment. I intend for us to examine the scheduling taking various factors into consideration in a comprehensive manner.

REPORTER (SACOMANDI, VALOR ECONÔMICO): I am Humberto Sacomandi from Valor Econômico newspaper of Brazil.  As you know, the president of China was here two weeks ago, and the Chinese have been very active in promoting trade, investment, and securing natural resources from Latin America and Brazil.  With your trip, do you intend to make Japan more active in these areas too, here in Latin America and Brazil, and how?  Do you think a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Mercosur is possible?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: In this tour, I have visited countries in Latin America and the Caribbean region as the first such trip for a Japanese Prime Minister in a decade.  Moreover, this mission included countries that a Japanese Prime Minister visited for the first time.  I think that we must redefine the importance of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean region.  Japan and the Latin America and Caribbean region share fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.  I feel it is fair to say that we are important partners contributing jointly to the peace and prosperity of the international community.

In addition, as I mentioned in my opening statement, some 1.8 million Japanese descendants are living in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean region.  A relationship of trust between Japan and each of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean region has been cultivated by the descendants of Japanese.  Taking this as the foundation, I firmly believe that we, who furthermore share universal values, will be able to develop together, and contribute to the world together, and together offer each other mutual enlightenment.

Within that context, the Latin America and Caribbean region is a global manufacturing base and a growing market, and its importance for the Japanese economy as a source supplying resources is expanding and increasing.  I believe that in the future, that importance will become greater and greater still.  Japan will make its cooperation with Brazil and the other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean region stronger than ever before, centered on economic aspects.  In addition, I also wish to deepen further our cooperation concerning regional issues and global issues.  I am convinced that by doing so, we will not only truly contribute to the development of Japan and of Latin America and the Caribbean region, but also provide significant benefits to the region as a whole and to the entire world.

As for a Free Trade Agreement with Brazil, in-depth discussions are currently underway within the private sector regarding the policies and measures that the two countries should take in order to further deepen economic relations between Japan and Brazil.  We look forward to creative recommendations.

Japan and Brazil are partners that have talked about their dreams and then made those dreams come true, such as in the development of the cerrado.  Thus far our two countries have promoted cooperation across a broad range of fields, including politics, economics, culture, and science and technology.  In our summit meeting yesterday, President Rousseff and I agreed to expand this cooperation also to such areas as infrastructure, shipbuilding, medical treatment, and space and the high seas.  We also agreed to build a strategic global partnership that contributes to the peace and prosperity of the region and the world.  I am firmly convinced that a new chapter in the history between Japan and Latin America and the Caribbean region has truly begun.

REPORTER (FUNAKOSHI, ASAHI SHIMBUN): I would like to ask about domestic affairs.  Mr. Prime Minister, you have already made it clear that in the first week of September you will reshuffle the leadership of the LDP as well as your Cabinet.  What are the most important policy issues that you will seek to tackle through these new lineups?  Roughly when do you intend to convene the extraordinary session of the Diet that will begin soon afterwards?  Just now you mentioned the issues of security legislation and building up local regions.  Do you envisage deliberating bills related to these issues during the extraordinary session of the Diet?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: In roughly the middle of August we will mark 600 days since the inauguration of this government, with the members of the current Cabinet and party leadership.  Under these members, the ratio of job offers to job seekers has risen for 19 consecutive months to reach the highest level in 22 years.  Moreover, according to a survey by RENGO, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, this spring we achieved a rise in wages by an average of 2 per cent, the highest level in the past 15 years.  I believe we can say that it is certain that an “economic virtuous cycle” has begun to take shape in both employment and wages.

During this visit to Latin America and the Caribbean region as well, I myself worked at the highest levels to expand our markets overseas.  As the results of our active economic diplomacy—and not just my own efforts, as we have been working as a team—last year we succeeded in receiving infrastructure orders of 9 trillion yen, tripling the amount we had had until now.  Here in Brazil, the direction for an order for a São Paulo subway was just recently decided.

At the same time, we cannot yet say that the winds of economic recovery have reached everywhere throughout Japan.  I think that the mission of Abenomics is to bring a tangible sense of economic recovery to every corner of the nation, including SMEs and micro enterprises all throughout Japan.  In order to achieve this, we will continue to work to extricate ourselves from deflation while placing the highest priority on the economy.  There will be no changes in that regard.

Beyond that, there is the issue of falling population.  We must also take on the major challenge of building up affluent and vibrant local regions while also tackling structural issues.

In addition, we must begin preparing in earnest to develop the domestic legislation in accordance with the basic policies for developing new security legislation, on which a Cabinet Decision was made the other day.

  I would like to present to the public an overall picture of a broad-based domestic legal structure covering a range from gray zone incidents to matters regarding the right of collective self-defense.  I regard the presentation of this overall picture as necessary both for gaining the understanding of the public and for being transparent towards other countries.  However, I anticipate that this will take some time, as it will be a tremendous undertaking.  I would like to accelerate that as much as possible.

In any event, we must arrange the structure by which we will address such issues head on.  We have a substantial amount of human resources within the LDP, including those who are currently in the Cabinet or working as leaders of the LDP.  I want for us to advance our reforms further and achieve good results by having people take on new issues with an invigorated approach.  That is why I have decided to carry out a reshuffling of my Cabinet and of the leadership of the LDP in the first week of September.

Building up local regions is a major pillar of Abenomics’ “second round” and we must execute this with a sense of speed. We are therefore currently preparing the first round of bills related to building up local regions, with the aim of submitting them to the extraordinary Diet session.

REPORTER (PARRA-BERNAL, REUTERS):  Good morning, Mr. Prime Minister.  Guillermo Parra-Bernal from Reuters.  Your visit to Latin America was preceded by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and during that visit, the group of BRICS launched a US$100 billion development bank and a currency reserve, all in a push to reshape the world’s West-dominated international financial system.  How does Japan view this development at a time when the country is reaching out towards the BRICS—in this case, Brazil, India, and Russia—but relations with China remain frayed?  And does Japan see this as a challenge to the ADB in particular?  And is your country worried that this will upset Japan’s influence in the region?  Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I am aware that recently, the BRICS countries signed an MOU on the establishment of the BRICS Development Bank and reached agreement on the establishment of that Bank.  At the same time, details regarding its concrete operations and of governance structure have not been made clear, and therefore I would like to refrain from commenting on this matter, including on the impacts on the Asian Development Bank.

In any case, financing from the World Bank and other international financial institutions has been carried out under rules that are of a very high caliber and governance that is fair.  I consider it important for the actual operations of the BRICS Development Bank to be conducted in accordance with such international rules.

There is extremely large demand for infrastructure globally.  For that reason, I consider it important that international financial institutions and private funds respond to those capital requirements efficiently and appropriately.


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