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Diplomatic Relations

Policy Speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the 200th Session of the Diet

October 4, 2019

[Provisional translation]
1. Introduction
I will deliver my policy speech here at the 200th session of the Diet.

In 1947, when the very first session of the Diet convened under the Constitution of Japan, our nation, which had lost everything in the war, was still in great suffering.

However, the gaze of our predecessors who gathered in this hall was pointed only to the future. Believing earnestly in the future of this nation, these people engaged in debates with a great sense of responsibility and they achieved dynamic reconstruction. They brought about rapid growth and passed down to us, living in the present day, a Japan that is peaceful and prosperous.
 
I express my sincere respect regarding the path our predecessors followed for more than 70 years.
This past May, His Majesty the Emperor acceded to the imperial throne. The Cabinet is working as one to advance the preparations so that each of the ceremonies, including the Ceremony of the Enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor at the Seiden (State Hall), takes place smoothly amidst the joyous celebrations of all the Japanese people.

Showa, Heisei, and Reiwa. Over the course of more than seventy years, society and the world have changed completely. As we begin a new era, the speed of those changes will surely accelerate further and further.
And yet despite this, we will, without fail, safeguard the peace and prosperity of Japan we inherited from our predecessors. And, we will build up and then pass on to the next generation a Japan to be proud of, brimming with hope, that is worthy of the new era of Reiwa. My fellow members of the Diet, let us fulfill that responsibility together.

2. A society in which all citizens are dynamically engaged
 (Making education free)
Our greatest challenge is the rapidly declining birthrate and swiftly aging society.

This month we made early childhood education and childcare free for all children between the ages of three and five. This constitutes the first major reform in 70 years since making basic education free for the nine years of elementary and junior high school education. From next April, we will also make higher education free for children for whom such assistance is truly needed.

We will reduce the burdens borne by the childrearing generation. We will create a society in which all children can work hard towards their dreams, regardless of their families’ economic situations. And, we will squarely address the declining birthrate, which should also be called a national crisis.

 (A society in which all citizens are dynamically engaged)
Fifteen years ago, I met a person battling ALS.

 “No matter how people become physically, they can enjoy living our lives.”

That person developed by himself a guitar that can be played even if one is paralyzed throughout one’s entire body. I went to one of his performances and he was devoted his heart and soul into his band’s activities. Moreover, he was involved in managing a business providing nursing care services. I have over many years seen with my own eyes wide-ranging activities he engages in.

I wish to extend as a friend my heartfelt congratulations to Mr. Yasuhiko Funago on his success in the first national election held in the Reiwa era.

In order to create a Reiwa era in which people with disabilities or intractable illnesses can demonstrate their individuality and be dynamically engaged in the workplace and in their communities, I want us to work together as we pursue national policies.

Now that the era of Reiwa has begun, it is a time to advance new nation building. We should carve out the next era without being confined to the ways of thinking we have had until now.
 
It is an undeniable fact that there existed extremely severe prejudice and discrimination against the family members of Hansen’s Disease patients and former patients, under a national policy adopted in the past of making patients enter facilities. Recognizing this fact squarely, we will swiftly implement measures for new compensation for family members, regardless of whether or not they were a party to the lawsuit. The government will act in unity, doing its all to eradicate discrimination and prejudice.
 
“Everyone is different and everyone is wonderful.”

The Japan of the new era is called on to have diversity. It is necessary to review, from their very foundations, our social systems with herd mentality and uniformity should be. By building a society in which we recognize diversity and everyone can make use of their individuality, we should also be able to overcome with absolute certainty the major barrier of a declining birthrate and aging society.
 
Let us work together to build a society in which all citizens are dynamically engaged, where all people, whether young or old, women or men, people with disabilities or intractable illnesses, or, moreover, people who have failed before, can demonstrate their abilities to the fullest, shall we not?

 (A social security system oriented to all generations)
A social security system in which people can enjoy peace of mind in response to various ways of learning, various ways of working, and various kinds of lifestyles, aiming at fully realizing a society where all citizens are dynamically engaged—the Abe Cabinet will resolutely take on the challenges of reforms in these three areas.

More than 80 percent of people wish to work beyond the age of 65. The employment of elderly people has newly increased by 2.5 million people over the last six years. Their abundant experience and wisdom constitute a major asset of Japanese society.

We will ensure employment opportunities up to age 70 for elderly people with the desire to work. We will also enhance medical treatment and nursing care that place importance on prevention so that people may always stay healthy. As the wall separating permanent and non-permanent employment crumbles with equal pay for equal work, we will expand the scope of application of employee pensions, ensuring people’s peace of mind after their retirement.

Across the entire spectrum of social security, including pensions, medical treatment, nursing care, and labor, we will resolutely advance reforms that keep the era of hundred-year lifespans firmly in view. We will be bold in envisioning a social security system appropriate for the era of Reiwa in which all generations can enjoy peace of mind, from children to the elderly.

3. Regional revitalization
 (The growth strategy)
In the recent financial verification of pensions, the income substitution rate pertaining to future pension benefits saw an improvement, as a result of an increase of five million contributors through Abenomics. A strong economy is a stable foundation for social security.

The number of permanent employees has increased by 1.3 million people. The improvement in the employment situation, in which there is more than one permanent position open for every person seeking to become a permanent employee, has continued for two consecutive years. 

Taking advantage of this opportunity, we will expand employment support to those who faced difficulties from job shortages as the result of the bursting of the economic bubble. We will make use of the drive, experiences, and abilities of those in the generation that encountered the employment ice age. By expanding their opportunities, we will utilize them to drive the next growth of the Japanese economy.

As the result of vigorously advancing corporate governance reforms since this administration was inaugurated, the direct investment balance from overseas into Japanese companies has set a new record for five consecutive years and increased by more than 10 trillion yen.

We will revise the Companies Act and obligate all large corporations to appoint outside directors. We will incorporate the vitality of growth from overseas by further increasing transparency in corporate management, in line with global standards.

 (Exporting agricultural products)
Recently, Japanese powdered milk is popular in Viet Nam and Singapore. By turning our eyes to the rest of the world, greater potential will open up for Japan’s agricultural products, which are safe and trusted.
With the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and our economic partnership agreement with the EU, exports of milk and dairy products have increased by more than 20 percent. Exports of beef to Europe have risen by 30 percent.

For all kinds of agricultural products, the opportunity to succeed in the world is coming. From every corner of Japan, we will further accelerate the export of agriculture, forestry, and fishery products of which each area is proud. We aim at enacting a bill to expand the export of agricultural products and, through an all-Japan approach, we will actively request individual countries to ease import restrictions.

 (Creating hometowns resilient to disasters)
Last fiscal year, exports of agricultural products from Fukushima increased close to 40 percent from their pre-earthquake level, reaching a new high. The export of peaches to Malaysia and Thailand, where restrictions were removed through diplomatic efforts, has been doing well.

We have completely eliminated restrictions in 32 countries and regions thus far. We will continue to do our utmost to dispel negative reputation impacts and accelerate the reconstruction of Tohoku.

We will eradicate the bureaucratic sectionalism across the government’s ministries and agencies, adhere to a thoroughgoing hands-on approach and, under the responsibility and leadership of politicians, work towards the revival of Fukushima and the reconstruction of Tohoku. This will not change even after the reconstruction and revitalization period. We will establish a body to succeed the Reconstruction Agency that will serve as the control tower for this and we will spare no effort towards reconstruction.

This year too, in various areas all around the country, earthquakes, torrential rainfall, record-level windstorms, and other natural disasters occurred one after another. I pray for the repose of the souls of all those who lost their lives and send my sympathies to all those who have been affected by these disasters.
The large-scale power outages that resulted from Typhoon No. 15 seriously impacted the daily lives of a great number of people. We will thoroughly review our responses. We will explore measures for accelerating the recovery of lifeline services when a disaster strikes and maintaining electrical infrastructure and swiftly take steps to address these issues.

We will support to the best of our ability the restoration of services and reconstruction and push forward in creating hometowns that are highly resilient to disasters by steadily implementing our three-year emergency measures to prevent and reduce disasters and enhance national resilience.

Regarding classical swine fever, which continues to emerge in various areas, we will mobilize all possible countermeasures, including vaccinations, in our efforts to eradicate it at the earliest possible time.

 (Micro, small, and medium enterprises)
The number of foreign tourists heading to areas outside the major metropolitan areas has more than quadrupled over the last six years. Tourism is a new source of vitality for the regions. There is a liveliness that is arising in local economies, including the price of land in commercial districts even in areas outside the major metropolitan areas turning upward for the first time in 28 years.

Against a backdrop of cashless payment rapidly spreading overseas, 70 percent of foreign tourists visiting Japan have responded that they would have spent more money here had cashless options been available. Through a bold reward-point rebate system, we will promote the shift to cashless transactions and expand inbound consumption, leading to the growth of micro, small, and medium enterprises around the nation.

We will continue to be vigorous in advancing fair subcontracting practices. We will thoroughly ensure that large companies observe the new promotion standards, which reflect the actual circumstances of the bullying of subcontractors in recent years.

We will end the custom of personal guarantees, under which a person who fails once loses everything. In cases of business succession, we will take all possible measures so thatthe next generation does not take over personal guarantees, including prohibiting in principle the seeking of a double layer of guarantees from both the old and new business owners.

(Prioritizing the economy as the top priority)
The Abe Cabinet will continue to regard the economy as the matter of the highest priority.

We will continue to pay sufficiently close attention to the impact of the rise in the consumption tax rate. In addition to making education free, we have taken sufficient measures, including a reduced tax rate, the issuance of premium vouchers, and even bold reductions in taxes on automobiles and houses, and we are working to sustain domestic consumption, which occupies the major part of the economy. This will ensure a virtuous circle in our economy.

We will also look intently at the future of the world economy, in which uncertainty is increasing, including trade friction between the U.S. and China and the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. When downside risk becomes evident, we will take agile measures of all possible types without hesitation and ensure that the growth trajectory of the economy is a certain one.

4. Diplomacy and security
 (A standard-bearer for free trade)
 “We reaffirm our commitment to use all policy tools to . . . safeguard against downside risks.”

At the Osaka Summit, all the G20 nations agreed to cooperate to bring about sustainable global growth.
Regarding the outstanding issue of trade frictions, the leaders clearly affirmed fundamental principles of free trade, including that it must be free, fair, and non-discriminatory.

Japan will continue to serve as a standard-bearer for free trade and work to expand economic zones based on free and fair rules to the world.

As for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which includes China, India, Australia and others in addition to ASEAN, we are advancing negotiations so that it goes beyond merely lowering tariffs to instead become an ambitious partnership that includes the economic rules of the 21st century, covering intellectual property, e-commerce, and so on.

Agreement has been reached on the Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement. We obtained a win-win result for both Japan and the U.S., in accordance with the Japan-U.S. joint statement of September 2018. We will also thoroughly address the anxiety that still remains among our farmers and continue to take adequate measures, including strengthening the production infrastructure.

 (Diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map)
Taking the Japan-US alliance as the linchpin, Japan will join hands with the UK, France, Australia, India, and other countries with which we share fundamental values and bring about a free and open Indo-Pacific.

We will continue to work to alleviate the impact of military bases in Okinawa. In order to realize the total return of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma, we will press ahead with the relocation to Henoko. We will advance our preparations towards the partial return of Camp Zukeran, scheduled for the end of this fiscal year, which follows the return of the Makiminato Service Area in the last fiscal year. We will without fail produce results, one after another, always paying close attention to the sentiment of the people of Okinawa.

Regarding the current situation in North Korea, we will engage in all possible means to ensure the safety of the Japanese people while collaborating closely with the United States and acting in cooperation with the international community. In working towards the resolution of the abductions issue, the most important issue, I am determined to meet Chairman Kim Jong-un myself, without attaching any conditions. Based on level-headed analyses, I will act resolutely, never letting any opportunities slip by.

We will carve out a new era of Japan-China relations. I will welcome President Xi Jinping as a state guest next year around the time the cherry trees are in bloom, and we will elevate Japan-China relations to a new stage, expanding our exchanges not only at the summit level, but also at every level, including economic exchanges and youth exchanges.

Joint economic activities on the Four Northern Islands have begun. Visits to graves using airplanes have been underway for three consecutive years, and the agreement reached in Nagato is moving forward steadily. We will resolve the territorial issue and conclude a peace treaty. We will advance negotiations into the next dimension on the basis of the Declaration of 1956, and bring the enormous potential of Japan-Russia relations into bloom.

The Republic of Korea is an important neighboring country. I call for honoring the commitments between the two countries, in accordance with following international law.

 (Rule-making in a new era)
Marine plastic litter has become a major global issue. At the Osaka summit, we shared a new vision in which we aim to reduce additional pollution by marine plastic litter to zero by 2050.

The G20 also agreed on a concrete implementation framework for making that a reality. Japan will continue to support efforts undertaken by the entire world, including emerging countries.

In this era in which the Fourth Industrial Revolution is advancing rapidly, the source of new added value is digital data.

At the G20 summit, with President Trump, President Xi Jinping, and other leaders participating, we launched the “Osaka Track,” under the roof of the WTO. We will ensure the free flow of data across borders while also ensuring trust. We will take the lead in international rule-making while holding that major principle aloft.
Japan will continue to lead global rule-making for the new era vigorously in every field.

4. Conclusion
 “The 12,000,000 colored people of America are watching the developments with the keenest interest.”

A hundred years ago, a U.S. newspaper, Afro-African, wrote that regarding Japan’s proposal at the Paris Peace Conference.

After emerging from a tragic war that left 10 million dead, what kind of world would humankind create going forward? Japan put forth racial equality as an ideal for the new age and a new principle, with sights fixed firmly on the future.

At the time when the colonies of Western powers were widespread around the world, Japan’s proposal was met with strong opposition from other nations. But Japan did not flinch whatsoever. Baron Nobuaki Makino, Japan’s plenipotentiary at the Conference, took a resolute attitude as he addressed the national delegations saying:
 
“I am aware of difficult circumstances…but I do not think it insurmountable.”

The great ideals that Japan put forth, going beyond that century, can also be seen as fundamental principles of the international community, including the International Covenants on Human Rights.

It is the time that we who live in the present also set forth resolutely the form our nation aspires to and its ideals, looking firmly towards the new era of Reiwa and the years that lie beyond it.

Looking steadily towards the future without becoming complacent with the current situation, we should reform our nation’s education, ways of working, social security, and social systems overall. My fellow distinguished members of the Diet, let us together advance new nation building in this era of Reiwa.

The guidepost for that is the Constitution. What kind of country should Japan aspire to become in the era of Reiwa? I would argue that the Commissions on the Constitution are the fora where we should debate those ideals. We, the members of the Diet, should debate those ideals thoroughly, grounded in the Diet’s history of 200 sessions. My fellow members of the Diet, let us carry out our responsibilities to the public.

Thank you very much for listening.
 
 
 

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