Joint Press Conference
[While the original statements were made in Japanese and German, the following is a translation of the Japanese minutes of the press conference. As such, there may be differences between the German phraseology used during the press conference and that appearing in this translation.]
1. Opening statements
(1) Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany
I very much welcome the visit of Prime Minister Aso. We have met on various occasions thus far, including recently at the Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy in London. Today we had the opportunity to exchange views on our bilateral relationship. Germany-Japan relations have been extremely good, with close cooperation taking place in a variety of fields. In the field of technology in particular, both countries possess superior technologies, and I believe that in the future we will be able to further enhance our cooperation in the area of "green technology", which contributes to climate preservation.
At the London Summit, discussions were held on the reconstruction of the global financial order, and at today's summit also we exchanged views on how best to prevent a crisis like the present one from recurring in the future. I hope to continue such exchanges of views at the G8 Summit in Italy this year and at the Third Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy due to take place this autumn. We are determined to take all possible means in order to get the economy on track once more. As one part of this, the disposal of banks' non-performing loans and economic stimulus packages are critical. Germany and Japan are in agreement on this. Moreover, the automatic stabiliser is also important in order for stimulus measures to have an effect.
Germany's domestic demand is stable, and its imports have been on a rising trend. The German domestic market is robust, bringing in benefits also to other countries including Japan.
As for international affairs, we agreed that on the North Korean issue it is important to continue the Six-Party Talks. In addition, on Security Council reform, Germany and Japan have been cooperating thus far with the goal of becoming permanent members of the Council, and we agreed to continue to seek progress on this matter in mutual cooperation.
In closing, Prime Minister Aso and I had a profitable and concrete exchange of views at today's meeting, and we were each able to gain solid understanding of the situation in the other country. We should like to continue cooperation on the international stage.
(2) Taro Aso, Prime Minister of Japan
First, I should like to express my gratitude for the welcome and the kindness shown to me by Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Government of Germany concerning my present visit. Chancellor Merkel and I have just had very profitable talks. Japan and Germany are respectively the countries with the largest economies in Asia and Europe, and they have major responsibilities in the international community. At our meeting, we agreed to strengthen further the cooperation between Japan and Germany so as to enhance the stability and prosperity of the world. This includes our responses to the current global economic crisis and to climate change, among other areas.
Regarding the global economic and financial crisis, Japan and Germany have agreed to continue to combine their efforts so as steadily to implement the agreements reached at the London Summit and to surmount the challenges we face. I explained my view that what is necessary in the present circumstances is to dispose of non-performing loans and to stimulate the economy through fiscal mobilisation. On that basis, we held a frank exchange of views on future action.
On climate change, we agreed that our generation must take responsibility in setting the path towards a resolution of the problem. I also emphasised that as we work in order to reach agreement on an equitable and effective post-2012 international framework, (i) it is necessary for developing countries with large greenhouse gas emissions volumes also to take on [emissions reduction] obligations, and (ii) it is necessary for developed countries including Japan and Germany to unite in addressing this issue. We also concurred that Japan and Germany should lead the world in the field of energy in order to bring about a low-carbon society.
We also agreed that Japan and Germany would cooperate on the pandemic influenza that the international community is now joining forces to combat.
With regard to Security Council reform, as Chancellor Merkel stated, Japan and Germany will continue to cooperate in order to bring about reform at an early date.
We further had a useful exchange on regional issues, including North Korea, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and others.
I would like to strengthen further the collaboration and cooperation between Japan and Germany, in line with the results of this meeting.
QUESTION: Chancellor Merkel, what is your view concerning the legitimacy of the current North Korean regime, which is oppressing the North Korean people?
CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: In light of Germany's historic experience, we cannot accept any regime that deprives people of their freedom, and therefore we hope that the situation will improve. In addition, we hope for progress in relations between the DPRK and the Republic of Korea. However, a prerequisite for this is adherence to democratic principles. First of all, it is important to have North Korea comply with UN Security Council Resolutions. The Six-Party Talks should be continued, and Germany will continue to support the Six-Party Talks.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Aso, I would like to ask about Japan's position regarding Iran. Does Japan support holding direct talks with Iran?
PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: Iran borders Afghanistan and I understand that some two million Afghan refugees have flowed into Iran. In order to resolve the problems in Afghanistan, the cooperation of its neighbours Pakistan and Iran is essential. This is Japan's view. One more important theme with regard to Iran is the issue of nuclear development. Although Iran's international isolation is deepening, Japan and Iran have a unique bilateral relationship that we have fostered over the years. Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran's Foreign Minister visited Japan recently in order to attend the Pakistan Donors Conference held in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Hirofumi Nakasone, Japan's Foreign Minister visited Iran the other day and held talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and others. Through such occasions, Japan is continuing its efforts to convey the voice of world opinion to President Ahmadinejad.
QUESTION: Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Aso has clearly stated that he would raise the Japanese consumption tax once the current economic crisis has been overcome. Why has not Germany adopted the same approach?
CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: What is important in overcoming the current economic crisis is to provide encouragement and hope so that people can have a positive vision of the future. Tax increases do not raise the public's motivation to achieve future economic recovery. At the time the grand coalition government was formed in 2005, the German pension and social security system carried a large-scale deficit. However, the issue was resolved when employment later increased, bolstered by a sound economy. After overcoming the current global financial and economic crisis, it will be important to ensure growth and establish sustainable economic foundations. At that time it will be necessary to reduce the burden borne by middle-income earners. A progressive tax rate system is not inherently bad but there is a need to revise progressive tax rates which impose an excessive burden on middle-income earners. The message I have been emphasising during this crisis has a philosophical aspect to it. It is, "Those who have worked hard, those who have made greater efforts than the average person should be encouraged to stay in Germany and be rewarded in this country."
QUESTION: I should like to ask a question to both leaders. I believe that the issues of Afghanistan and Pakistan call for comprehensive efforts from a regional perspective. How do you intend to advance the cooperative relationship between Japan and Germany [on these issues]?
PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: First of all, as for Afghanistan, a presidential election is scheduled for August and we are watching intently in the hope that it is conducted in a free and fair manner. To help, Japan is providing assistance to fund the salaries of the entire 80,000-strong Afghan police force for half a year. I commend Germany very highly for its efforts to enhance Afghanistan's capacities in the area of security, even as it has made a great many sacrifices. I am also aware that the first Afghanistan Donors Conference was held in Bonn in 2001. In addition, assistance for Pakistan is also important when we consider the medium to long term. Pledges at the Pakistan Donors Conference held in Tokyo the other day totalled approximately 5.2 billion US dollars, exceeding expectations. These included a pledge by Japan of a maximum of one billion US dollars and a pledge by Germany of 115 million euros. Japan and Germany will continue to work in close cooperation to ensure that the money is not merely collected but these funds are used for assistance in the right manner, and that the results lead to enhanced stability in Pakistan.
CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: As Prime Minister Aso mentioned, the positions of Japan and Germany on the issues of Afghanistan and Pakistan have many points in common. Namely, it important skilfully to combine reconstuction assistance with measures in the military area, and we highly regard Japan's efforts. We also agree on the need for a regional perspective in order to resolve these issues, and we are grateful that Japan hosted the Pakistan Donors Conference. I myself have recently spoken with the Prime Minister of Pakistan over the telephone in order to deepen our cooperation with Pakistan. Germany as the 2007 Chair of the G8 strengthened its cooperation with Afghanistan and Pakistan and created an opportunity for these two countries to cooperate with each other. We agree with Japan on the importance of our two countries being actively engaged. Germany has been devoting effort to the training of the Afghan police and military. It is important to assist the people of Afghanistan so that they are able to provide their own security. President Hamid Karzai will visit Germany again on 11 May, and on that occasion I intend to discuss with him in detail such matters as assistance to the Afghan military and police as well as self-help efforts by Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Aso, do you regard Germany's efforts to help overcome the global economic crisis as sufficient?
PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: I understand that Germany has been implementing proactive and swift economic countermeasures despite domestic difficulties. With regard to the speed of those measures in particular, Germany deserves much praise for having taken action earlier than Japan.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Aso, the car industry has been hit by the effects of the economic crisis. The rescue of Opel is a hot topic domestically in Germany. Do you expect Japan to be increasingly involved in this issue?
PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: Japan and Germany are each home to several major global car manufacturers. There are not many other countries like this. To be quite frank I am not particularly familiar with Opel's current situation. I am afraid I am unable to answer your question, since I have not heard anything to suggest that Japan's car makers intend to be actively involved with Opel, or that Opel has extended any special offers to them. Meanwhile, Japan has followed the German example by introducing from 1 April measures to support the replacement of old cars with new ones. 100,000 yen will be awarded in the event of a new purchase of an "eco-car" and 250,000 yen in the event of such a purchase to replace an old car that was in use for 13 years or more. This policy combines assistance to the car industry with environmental and climate change mitigation measures, and it drew heavily on the German precedent.