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Home >  News >  Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister >  May 2019 >  "A Japan Moving Forward, and the Future Being Built Together with Asia" - Speech By Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Banquet of the 25th International Conference on The Future of Asia

Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

"A Japan Moving Forward, and the Future Being Built Together with Asia" - Speech By Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Banquet of the 25th International Conference on The Future of Asia

May 30, 2019

[Provisional Translation]

Thank you very much for your introduction.

Prime Minister Mahathir, Prime Minister Hun Sen, Prime Minister Hasina, Prime Minister Thongloun, distinguished leaders from various countries, and eminent participants from various sectors both within Japan and internationally, it is indeed a great pleasure and an honour to have the opportunity to address you today.

Preserving the Free and Fair Trading System

This past 24th of March, a subway under the Jakarta metropolis started its operations. This new transportation network had been much in demand for many years for Jakarta, one of the largest cities in the world, but finally, it came to be up and running. I am delighted that Japan was also able to contribute to this undertaking.

High quality infrastructure connecting Asia with the world... The importance of connectivity is becoming greater still. Let us join hands together and further advance our efforts to create an enormous economic zone in Asia.

A month from now, I will host the G20 Summit. Tonight, I would like to talk first about the G20 agenda.

Next month on the Friday and Saturday of the last weekend in June, at the G20 Summit to convene in Osaka, I want for us to hold deep discussions regarding mainly the following three points. Then, after charting a course for how to proceed in the future, we will take actions in accordance with that course.

Each of these is a particularly important discussion point for us in Asia, as I will explain right now.

The first is what we can properly call the most important issue facing us right now: working to maintain and ultimately strengthen the free and fair order for international trade. If I were to extend that point into tonight’s context in particular, then we should, as our own responsibility, join forces to forge the RCEP.

We have already carried out discussions on creating this partnership for quite some time. From now, let us make a dash towards the goal line, in one intense sprint, shall we not? If we are going to establish the RCEP, then let us create something ambitious and high quality that is suitable for a new era.

DFFT and the “Osaka Track”

The second point is regarding the digital economy.

While digitalization of the economy has made possible unique business models never seen before, we are at the same time also facing new challenges, such as double non-taxation for multinational companies. We are called upon to search out ways of resolving such issues, one and then another, on the basis of international cooperation.

We are all in a new era, in which enormous amounts of data travel throughout the world in an instant, indifferent to national boundaries. I think that the significance fulfilled by data in advancing the economy and society of the future will rival or surpass the role petroleum played in the previous century that began alongside the explosive spread of the internal combustion engine.

Data overcomes physical obstacles easily by its nature. Networked, data multiplies and then further multiplies its effects and advantages. Conversely, should anywhere equivalent to a single closed-off room appear, that alone results in immeasurable losses extending to the entire network.

Here we advocate the building of a “Data Free Flow with Trust,” or “DFFT,” system. This is an approach that attempts to allow the free flow of data under rules we can all count upon.

Let us prepare rules so that the benefits of the digital economy spread to everyone in Asian countries, and needless to say, the advantages come to all people the world over.

The process for doing that is what we call the “Osaka Track,” which we hope to launch at the Osaka G20 Summit. Together with you, we want to embark on this major transformation that will inscribe new pages in the history of humankind. That is point number two.

It goes without saying that points one and two are entirely inseparable from reforms to the World Trade Organization.
A quarter century has passed since the WTO came into being. During that time, the world economy has changed at amazing speed, including in digitalization, as I just mentioned.

The WTO, however, has failed to keep up with this. The adverse effects of this become increasingly apparent as time goes on. What should we do to make the WTO relevant again as a guardian of the free and fair trading system?

Let us blow a new breeze into the WTO at this juncture through the “Osaka Track,” shall we not? I very much look forward to you supporting this proposal, which we can truly say kills two birds with a single stone.

The greatest supply chain that has been leading the global economy for many years is found in nowhere other than the ASEAN region.

The dynamically evolving ASEAN economy has succeeded in seizing the prosperity of the present day by pioneering and then enriching the building an environment in which people and goods flow in and out freely. It is precisely freedom that accounts for ASEAN’s dynamism.

I want to advance the Osaka Track with your help, help that you draw from ASEAN’s centrality. That is what I aspire to do. Nothing would be more encouraging than for the aspirations of the leaders of the ASEAN nations to align with mine on this occasion. My ASEAN colleagues, what do you say to that?

Innovation and Global Environmental Challenges

The third point is the importance of innovation in order for us to tackle global environmental challenges.

The direction promoted by the IPCC’s “1.5oC Report” is not something that should be—and not by any means something that can be—realized only through regulations. Disruptive innovation that flips a negative thing into something positive—that is where the key to realizing goals is found.

Take carbon dioxide, for example. In recent years it has naturally been treated entirely as a villain. But how wonderful would it be if carbon dioxide were to become a “resource” available at the very lowest price and available in the greatest abundance! Innovative technologies like artificial photosynthesis are certain to change such dreams into reality.

At the G20 meeting, I intend for us to confirm once again the importance of innovation.

And, in October, Japan will hold a Green Innovation Summit, bringing together under one roof top-class researchers and representatives of industrial and financial circles from all around the world. We hope to gather together the world’s wisdom and usher in the future society of our dreams through one great push.

On March 6, I received some recommendations from the members of “Science20,” which was created by the national science academies of the G20 countries.

In order to reduce threats to marine ecosystems and conserve marine environments, the six-point list of recommendations makes the following appeal in its final two points.

It maintains that the “establishment of an improved data storage and management system that ensures open access by scientists globally” and the “sharing of information gained through research activities carried out under extensive and multinational collaboration, to expedite a comprehensive understanding of the global ocean and its dynamics” are important.

It is exactly for this reason as well that we must ensure DFFT and make data into public goods for scientists the world over.

Professor Atsuhiko Isobe of Kyushu University is the researcher who made the first forecast anywhere worldwide of the amount of microplastics expected to be floating in our oceans in the future. We, the Japanese government, will support such kinds of dedicated efforts by academics and spread that knowledge, and be unstinting in our provision of necessary assistance.

It is necessary to have a global base that will serve as the foundation for responding to new challenges.

This year, Japan will found within ERIA, the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia, the “Regional Knowledge Centre on Marine Plastic Debris.” I am determined for us to work together with you in ASEAN to protect the beautiful seas, our common asset.

Those of us who live in the broader Asia of the Indo-Pacific have made the prosperity of the modern day our own.

We were all brought up with the natural environment of the sea and we take a free and open maritime order blessed with the rule of law as a natural premise. We have enjoyed the greatest possible advantages from the free trading system that has blossomed in our seas.

That is exactly why those of us in the Indo-Pacific should now join hands in efforts to preserve marine ecosystems and protect our environment.

We should together maintain the maritime order that has nurtured us up to the present day—the free, open maritime order faithful to the rule of law—and safeguard and then strengthen free trade to the greatest degree possible.

The Arrival of a New Era, “Reiwa”

“A happy new era to you!!”

This is how we greeted each other, in celebration.

As May 1 dawned, that sort of spectacle could be seen all throughout Japan. Scenes akin to New Year's Day took place here and there.

Many in Japan, myself of course included, received greetings from abroad.

All offered congratulations on the abdication by His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus, the first abdication by a reigning emperor in 202 years, and on the enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor, while also commemorating the arrival of a new reign.

They enveloped us in a sense of delightfulness that was peaceful and overflowing with a sense of fulfilment.

Some overseas well-wishers expressed sentiments I had not even imagined.

Some commented, “The ‘rei’ in the era name ‘Reiwa’ has such a nice ring to it.”

They pointed out that the pronunciation was the same as the word “ray” in such phrases as “a ray of hope” or “a ray of sunshine.”
“Oh, I see it now,” I said to myself as their words sunk in, and I thought, that’s really icing on the cake for the sound to have that positive nuance.

That is because I felt they were pointing out what is happening increasingly in the hearts and minds of Japanese who found the world to be a bit sunnier.

“If you have time to look back, then move forward instead”

I recall something that I saw on the day I went to the town of Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture, the town that is home to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

An evacuation order that had been in place for residents across the entirety of Okuma was partially lifted on April 10, and four days later, on April 14, a ceremony to open the newly constructed town office took place.

I participated in the ceremony, and there I met a young woman. Her name is Ms. Aki Sato. Three years after the disaster, reports conveying the state of the disaster-affected areas became harder to come by, so she had come from Tokyo, wanting to see the situation with her own eyes and do anything she could.

It wasn’t long before she married a man from the local area, and she is now herself a resident of the town of Okuma.

She urged me to take a look at the red windbreaker she was wearing. The message on the back appeared in skilfully written Japanese white outline letters.

It said, “If you have time to look back, then move forward instead.”

I’ll repeat that.  “If you have time to look back, then move forward instead.”

My friends, I am telling you that many of them affected by the spate of disasters striking Japan recently are even now continuing to move forward, exchanging with each other those words of encouragement.

Japan, Confident and Relaxed
Look to the light ahead and walk on. Turn your face skyward and run in the direction from which the daylight of hope shines.

Thinking about it, that was a way of life for the people in postwar Japan who supported our rapid economic growth. Prime Minister Mahathir, who saw Japan in the early 1960’s with his own eyes, will surely remember that clearly.

When the 1980’s came around, that spread into the ASEAN region, and now it is a way of life for broader Asia—that is, for the entire Indo-Pacific.

Distinguished attendees, in Japan the Rugby World Cup will kick off soon, in September. A year from now will be the Olympic and Paralympic Games. And after six years will be Osaka-Kansai Expo 2025.

These encouraging milestones, these bright junctures, exist in the future as if they were rays of hope, and they are inscribed on Japan’s calendar as landmark events, written big and bold.

Now that the era has changed to the era of Reiwa, the Japanese, and especially Japan’s young people, have seen light emanating from the future. They have once more turned their faces skyward and begun to walk on, embracing that sunny way of life found in Japan itself and in broader Asia.

I tell you all of this with a bit of pride. From the leaders of the Asian countries, whom I regard with great respect, I very much hope to receive your recognition of that.

I firmly believe that a Japan having a free and easy self-confidence in being itself, no more and no less, is a Japan that is well-suited to be someone creating “the future of Asia.”

Thank you very much.

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