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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Speech by the Prime Minister at the 26th International Conference on The Future of Asia

May 20, 2021

[Provisional Translation]

Excellencies, Ministers,
Leaders in various fields at home and abroad,

At the outset, I would like to send my prayers for the souls of those who passed away from COVID-19 in each country.

I also would like to express my deep respect for all the people confronting this infectious disease at the frontline of health and medical care every day.

Today, with the desire to shape a future full of hope and to pull through this crisis together with you, I would like to talk about Japan’s vision for the post-COVID-19 era.

(Overcoming COVID-19)
More than a year has passed since COVID-19 became a global pandemic. Now, 160 million cases have been confirmed in the world, and 30 million in the Asia-Pacific region alone.

Every country is making an all-out effort to tackle this situation, but the situation waxes and wanes. In Southwest Asia, about 40% of the cumulative cases occurred only in the last 30 days.

I believe that a decisive factor in surmounting this crucial phase is vaccines.

That is why Japan will do its utmost to ensure equitable access to safe and effective vaccines in the whole world including developing countries based on the principle of “human security” with a view to achieving Universal Health Coverage.

As part of that effort, next month, I myself will co-host the COVAX AMC Summit along with Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso, Gavi Board Chair, to call for strong commitments from other countries.

We will further advance the ACT Accelerator, an international framework launched by co-proposers including Japan, and support developing a cold chain that is critical for delivering vaccines to each and every person.

To overcome COVID-19, it is also essential to work expeditiously to strengthen health and medical systems in the region.

Recently, Japan made prompt decisions to provide ventilators and oxygen concentrators and offer additional grant aid up to 50 million dollars to India as part of its swift response in light of the rapid increase of infections in the country.

We will continue to fully support the ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases that will become a core of regional infectious disease responses in the future.

(Next driving forces of growth: “green” and “digital”)
While doing everything we can in the fight against the infectious disease in this way, I would like to map out a future full of hope with you where Asia will shine again as the world’s growth center.

Even in the post-COVID-19 era, the potential of Asia will remain unchanged without doubt. Although the world economy was temporarily stagnant due to COVID-19, and Asian economies shrunk by 1.5 percent last year, 7.6 percent economic growth in Asia is projected this year according to the IMF.

If we want Asia to harness the vitality of the world economy and lead the regional and global economy to “better growth”, we need to create the next driving force for growth.

Japan is determined to take the lead in generating such driving forces through innovation and transformation, underpin Asia’s growth, and lead global growth with you all.

I believe the key to this is “green” and “digital”.

(Realizing a green society)
Extreme weather events such as torrential rains and forest fires, climate change is said to be a major cause of such events that have been seen in countries in the Asia-Pacific region and many parts of the world in recent years.

Addressing climate change and advancing decarbonization is hence an imminent challenge which the whole of humankind should aim to solve.

And our efforts to address climate change is no longer a constraint on our economy, but will also be a driving force for long-term dynamic economic growth.

With this vision in mind, I declared that Japan will aim for net-zero emissions by 2050. And Japan aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 46 percent in fiscal year 2030 from its fiscal year 2013 levels, setting an ambitious target which is aligned with this long-term goal. Furthermore, Japan will continue strenuous efforts in its challenge to meet the lofty goal of cutting its emissions by 50 percent.

To attain these goals, we will mobilize all measures such as a newly established two-trillion-yen fund, tax measures, regulatory reform, standardization and international collaborations.
By incentivizing ambitious investment and innovation by private companies, we plan to transform the industrial structure and create robust growth.

At the same time, we will contribute to world-wide decarbonization through joint research, the creation of international standards and infrastructure cooperation among others.

With countries in the Indo-Pacific region including ASEAN, Japan will actively promote cooperation to accelerate a diverse and realistic transition towards a decarbonized society.

For example, Japan has established the Joint Crediting Mechanism with many countries in Southeast Asia and other regions. This mechanism contributes to greenhouse gases emission reductions and removals by facilitating the diffusion of leading decarbonization technologies and products.

And in the Pacific region which is particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, Japan has set up the Pacific Climate Change Center in Samoa, where Japanese experts are engaged in human resource development for countries in the region.

Through these initiatives, Japan will actively move forward both its own efforts and its collaboration with other countries, thereby leading the sustainable growth of the international community.

(Promotion of a digital society)
Another driving force for growth is “digital”.
In order to map out a future in which Asia drives global growth, it is vital to leverage digital technologies and space.

Japan will turbocharge reform to become a world-leading digital nation. By establishing an Agency in Japan in charge of digital transformation to serve as a control tower and providing tax incentives, we will forge ahead with digitalization in both the public and private sectors.

In addition, we intend to undertake research and development for post 5G and 6G, and take the lead in creating international rules for communication standards. To further develop a free and open digital space in the Indo-Pacific, we are working on developing legal systems and infrastructure, as well as human resources.

As an example, in Vietnam, where international cargoes expanding, Japan has extended assistance ?both hardware and software ? for building an IT system to strengthen effectiveness of customs clearance operations.

In Nepal, we are implementing a project in the area of disaster risk reduction, where Japan has a strong advantage, to provide high-precision digital images required for drawing flood hazard maps.

At the same time, cyber security is also extremely important in making the best use of the potential of a digital space.

Japan established the ASEAN-Japan Cybersecurity Capacity Building Centre in Bangkok and is undertaking capacity building of government agencies and operators of critical infrastructure from ASEAN countries.

We will work in cooperation with other countries in pursuit of a society where everyone in Asia and the world can enjoy the benefits of digitalization.

(Free and fair economic order)
To ensure each country can achieve “better recovery” towards a future full of hope, along with driving forces of growth, a free and fair economic order is essential.

Even in the midst of protectionist moves across the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan has consistently taken the role of a flag-bearer of free trade. There is not a slightest change in this policy.
Building on the economic partnership networks we have established with Indo-Pacific countries so far, we remain committed to expanding a free and fair economic-zone, and to further strengthening the rule-based multilateral trading system.

As the Chair of the CPTPP Commission this year, we intend to lead discussions for the steady implementation and expansion of TPP11 with high-level market access and rules.

The RCEP Agreement is a major step toward forming a free, fair and rule-based order in the region. Japan will exercise leadership in realizing the early entry into force of the Agreement and in securing its steady implementation once it comes into effect.

Furthermore, we will continue to actively promote WTO reform, and accelerate rule-making to realize “Data Free Flow with Trust” in the digital age.

(Free and Open Indo-Pacific)
In order to ensure the prosperity of the entire region and the world through these various efforts, achieving a free and open order based on the rule of law is of paramount importance.

Japan’s such vision has gained broad support in the international community including from the United States, Australia, India, ASEAN and European nations.

At the Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Leaders’ Conference held for the first time in March this year, and during my face-to-face meeting with President Biden last month, we confirmed to strengthen our solidarity and work strategically towards the realization of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”.

The “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific” adopted by ASEAN sets out the rule of law, openness, freedom, transparency and inclusivity as ASEAN’s principles of action, and the Outlook shares many fundamental principles with the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” concept.

Japan fully supports the Outlook and will strongly support its fruition.

In reality, however, we have been witnessing developments contrary to the rule of law and openness enshrined in the ASEAN Outlook.

As a maritime and Indo-Pacific nation, Japan has been consistently upholding the preservation of the rule of law in seas. Japan strongly opposes any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the South China Sea and beyond.

I would like to reemphasize the importance for all parties to make efforts towards maintaining and strengthening a free and open maritime order based on the rule of law.

(50th Anniversary of Japan-ASEAN Friendship and Cooperation)
In two years, 2023 will mark the 50th Anniversary of Friendship and Cooperation with ASEAN, Japan’s strategic partner and irreplaceable friend. ASEAN and Japan have deepened our bond at a variety of levels and in various fields, building on the shared fundamental principles.

The balance of Japan’s direct investment in ASEAN has surged more than seven-fold over the last two decades, and the number of Japanese companies doing business in ASEAN has doubled in the last decade.

Supporting each other’s growth through reinforcing connectivity, developing human resources, and creating rules for trade and investment, is what Japan and ASEAN have been achieving.

In the 50th anniversary, we look forward to welcoming the leaders of ASEAN countries to Japan and mapping out a future of the region together.

(Ten years after the Great East Japan Earthquake, The Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020)
This year marks a decade since the Great East Japan Earthquake. I wish to take this opportunity to once again express our gratitude for the tremendous support extended by countries and regions in the Indo-Pacific and around the world.

As a symbol of global unity, and as the “Recovery and Reconstruction Olympic and Paralympic Games” to show Japan’s reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake to the world, we are proceeding with preparations to hold the Tokyo 2020 Games in a safe and secure manner this summer, taking thorough countermeasures against infections.

Today, I have talked about my vision for the post-COVID-19 era.

The path toward bringing infections under control and restoring our society and economy is not easy. Yet, Japan is determined to lead the robust recovery of Asia as the world’s growth center by overcoming difficulties it faces one by one, building a strong economy of our own, and always being a reform- and innovation-oriented nation.

I would like to join together with you in creating a future of Asia which is full of hope.

Thank you for your attention.

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