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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Remarks by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on the Occasion of the 2nd Council on National Strategy and Policy

Monday, November 21, 2011

[Provisional Translation]


 Opening Remarks by Prime Minister Noda

PRIME MINISTER NODA: I would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to attend this meeting of the Council on National Strategy and Policy.

Whether we decide a basic strategy for the revitalization of Japan, or consider a medium- and long-term national strategy going forward, I believe this cannot be done without looking at the issues of the European crisis the world is currently facing. Speaking from this perspective, the recent sovereign risk issue of Europe basically stems from the fiscal problems of each country. Naturally the most basic response to the crisis in Europe is for the countries of the Euro Zone to steadily implement the comprehensive agreement that has been reached in order to alleviate market concerns. To this end I believe that countries outside the Euro Zone must strengthen their calls on the countries of Europe, but as we do not know exactly in what form the current issue will spread beyond Europe, as a precaution, I believe it is important that we also steadily work on fiscal restructuring while promoting economic growth. The Government has created a Fiscal Management Strategy, and in addition to engaging in concrete efforts to implement measures for this strategy, we must ensure that the strategy we formulate in this Council is consistent with the Fiscal Management Strategy. This is my first point.

Another point is that this European crisis may possibly affect international trade in addition to spreading financial crisis. In terms of how international trade may be affected, regrettably it may lead to the rise of protectionism. This is what happened prior to the Second World War and it was for that reason that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was created. It is within the framework of GATT that Japan has enjoyed prosperity and become a major economic power as a proponent of free trade. Unfortunately, with regard to the question of the status of progress in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round negotiations, which have superseded GATT, and involve nearly 200 countries and regions, although I would not call the current situation hopeless, it does not allow much optimism at this moment. Amidst this situation, various bilateral and multilateral arrangements for high-level economic partnership are being formed right now.

Against the backdrop of concerns over the possible emergence of protectionism, we need to formulate a strategy with a resolve to promoting free trade. It was from that perspective that I recently announced that Japan would enter into consultations with the countries concerned toward participating in the negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. Meanwhile, as I stated at the recent ASEAN-related Summit Meetings and the Japan-China-Republic of Korea (ROK) Summit Meeting, while the realities for the TPP are as they currently stand, in addition to the TPP discussions Japan hopes to accelerate the discussions of Japan-China-ROK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and to work towards the completion of an investment agreement among the three countries before the end of the year. However, the negotiations on an investment agreement have lasted for four years and I proposed enthusiastically to Premier Wen Jiabao of China that we should finalize negotiations for an investment agreement, as it would be pointless to wait to conclude the investment agreement if the discussions on a Japan-China-ROK (FTA are likely to take even longer. The joint study on a Japan-China-ROK FTA involving industrial, government, and academic sectors will be concluded within this year, and we are currently discussing about moving onto starting negotiations on the specifics from next year.

At the same time, possibilities are emerging for ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+6 schemes. These kinds of things I believe must be surely incorporated into our national strategies.

One other thing I want to mention is the depth of the middle class, which has without a doubt been a source of Japan's fundamental strength as a nation. I would like to discuss extensively how we can regain this depth through this Council. To that end I have used the word "frontier," and I hope that in coordination with ministers the discussions in this Council will seek ways to open up frontiers for a new Japan.

I call upon you all to bear these perspectives in mind as we engage in extensive discussions on basic strategy to revitalize Japan.

Concluding Remarks by Prime Minister Noda

PRIME MINISTER NODA: I would like to thank you all for your truly enthusiastic engagement in discussions today.

As was detailed in the documents distributed by Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Edano, we will lose out if we simply reconcile ourselves to the current situation. For example, if we perceive that our current score is 60/100 and that is sufficient, we will ultimately end up being a country with a 40 or even 30-point score. Unless we aim for 80, 90 or 100 points we will face a truly severe situation. In the midst of such a situation we have heard today a number of very good proposals for how to formulate Japan's national strategy, and we must now move to engage in concrete efforts that will ensure that such proposals bear results. This is the perspective from which I would like discussion to advance.

Among the proposals today there was one that concerned the floods in Thailand and making a contribution from the perspective of human security. I have taken this proposal on board and I will be asking the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to join our discussions next time. We have discussed Thailand on this occasion, but it is also the case that the countries of the Mekong region, including Vietnam, also strongly desire such a contribution. Vietnam has a population of almost 90 million and the population of Myanmar stands at approximately 60 million. Given the fact that as we make a contribution through human security the layers of the middle class will continue to grow still further from now, I believe that we should progress our discussions on the basis of a high degree of involvement in such considerations.

Our discussions are aimed at formulating a basis strategy for the revitalization of Japan and if possible I would like to utilize such a basic strategy in the formulation of the budget for fiscal 2012. I expect that at our next meeting we will be able to engage in specific discussions on what sections of the Program to Prioritize the Revitalization of Japan we can utilize to this end.

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