Prime Minister NODA's BLOG

Following the G20 summit meeting in Cannes (which has a time difference of 8 hours behind Japan, with a round-trip total flight time of 26 hours) and the APEC leaders' meeting in Honolulu (19 hours behind Japan; 16 hours round trip), from last Thursday until Sunday morning, I participated in a number of summit meetings in Bali, Indonesia (1 hour behind Japan; 14.5 hours round trip) with the leaders of ASEAN member countries and other nations.  For three weeks, I have been attending international meetings over each weekend.

From morning until night I went from one meeting room to the next and was most unfortunately unable to spend any unhurried time there at the host site.  While I can't say that I escaped fatigue entirely, I do believe that I was able to achieve satisfactory outcomes.  More than anything, meeting the leaders of various countries multiple times within such a short time span does indeed naturally make us all familiar faces to each other.  In that sense, I consider these three weeks to have been truly meaningful in deepening the personal relationships of trust I hold with other national leaders.

The greatest objective I had in this trip was strengthening Japan's kizuna (bonds of friendship) with the countries of ASEAN, with whom Japan has cultivated friendly relations over a great many years.  The countries of ASEAN and Japan are deeply connected in the economic realm, as epitomized by the fact that when flooding occurred in Thailand, the production of automobiles by Japanese manufacturers was disrupted.

In order to deepen such relations still further, we reached agreement on giving concrete form to cooperation in various areas, including the development of arterial roads and harbors in ASEAN countries and the mutual sharing of experiences in disaster management, among others.

At the East Asia Summit (abbreviated as "EAS"), in which the U.S. and Russia participated for the first time, Japan as a maritime state stressed the importance of international rules and succeeded in gaining understanding regarding the furthering of cooperation and dialogues on maritime issues.

One area that saw significant progress through this series of meetings was that of economic partnership.  As I have stated previously, my fundamental stance is one of utilizing various frameworks for free trade to contribute to Japan's national interests while incorporating into Japan the growth potential of the Asia-Pacific region.

The ultimate common goal agreed upon by all the countries is to bring about a "Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific" (abbreviated as "FTAAP," which is read as "ef-tap") no later than 2020.  There are hardly any divergent views among the countries concerned regarding the setting of this objective.

What is at issue is the path forward to reach that realization.  Beyond the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or "TPP," which is the only scheme on which negotiations have officially started, there has also been advocacy for the creation of frameworks for economic partnerships which place the ASEAN nations at the core and are based on "ASEAN+3," which involves Japan, China and the Republic of Korea, or "ASEAN+6," which further adds India, Australia, and New Zealand, and at these meetings as well, Japan actively engaged  other countries regarding this matter.  As a result, working groups with the concerned countries is to be created, in line with a joint proposal put forward by Japan and China.

In addition, it was confirmed at the summit level that joint research on a trilateral FTA among Japan, China, and the ROK would be brought to a conclusion within 2011.  I once again urged my colleagues regarding an investment agreement that would be a precondition for this FTA, with China also responding in a forward-looking way.

There are a number of different types of names of meetings and frameworks comprised of a string of initials, such as "ASEAN+3," "CEPEA" (Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia), and so on, and it's somewhat of a chore to have to keep them all straight in one's mind and properly understand each.  But these various frameworks are measures sharing the same "ultimate goal," and they are neither mutually exclusive of each other nor contradictory.  Each of these measures acts to stimulate the others and I look forward to each of them moving forward in order to realize the creation of a free trade and investment framework in the Asia-Pacific.

The ties among national leaders.  Japan's ties with the countries of ASEAN.  And our ties in the realm of the economy through attempts at multilateral economic partnerships.  As we make ties among countries increasingly deep, I once again feel that the roles and responsibilities held by national leaders are very weighty in their scope.

Yesterday (the 21st), the third supplementary budget was passed.  Debate on "the proposed-based policy review of government programs" has also begun.

Yoshihiko Noda
Prime Minister of Japan
November 22, 2011

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