February 2011

February 18(Friday)

Signing a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with India!

Vigorously advancing the "21st-century opening up of Japan"

 

The "21st-century opening up of Japan" has taken yet another major step forward in concrete terms.

 

Today (February 16), Japan and India signed a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (EPA). India is the world's second most populous country, with 1.17 billion people (according to 2007 United Nations statistics). This step is of great importance in achieving growth jointly with vibrant India. In the days to come, procedures will be undertaken to secure approval in the Diet in order to have this agreement enter into force at the earliest possible date.

 

What's an "EPA"?

 

An "EPA" is an arrangement for economic cooperation (an "economic partnership agreement") concluded between one country and another. By both countries lowering tariffs to 0% for almost all goods, not only do imports and exports become dramatically liberalized, but also the participating countries seek to liberalize cross-border remittances, eliminate investment regulations, and enhance systems for intellectual property protection, among other goals. This EPA with India is the twelfth one Japan has concluded, following upon agreements signed with Thailand, Mexico, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and others.

 

Importance of strengthening economic relations with India

 

India enjoyed an 8.6% rate of GDP growth in the previous fiscal year (expected, based on Central Statistical Organisation [CSO] of India documents). India's middle class is also expanding, with, for example, the number of cars owned in 2007 having increased to roughly 1.8 times the number owned in 2003.

 

Yet despite such striking growth, economic relations between India and Japan do not at present reflect the scale of these two countries' economies.

 

For example, India accounts for a roughly 0.85% share of Japan's trade value, making it Japan's 28th largest trading partner (as of fiscal 2008). Moreover, India ranks only 20th among countries receiving Japanese investment.

 

Structure of trade between Japan and India
Structure_of_trade_between_japan_an

 

With a view to opening wide the gates to such economic relations, through this EPA we have negotiated a landmark agreement that removes tariffs on a remarkable approximately 97% of imports from India and approximately 90% of exports to India within ten years of the agreement entering into force.

 

So, what really changes?

 

As a result, among goods imported from India, tariffs on virtually all categories of goods within industrial fields will be lifted immediately, and tariffs will also be removed on curry, teas, shrimp, and other items with which we are well acquainted in our daily lives.

 

In other words, Japanese consumers will be able to buy these imported goods more cheaply.

 

P201102162

Today, the staff at the Prime Minister's Office had the opportunity to enjoy Indian food at lunchtime.

 

At the same time, among Japan's exports to India, over a span of ten years tariffs will be lifted on, for example, automobile parts (bumpers, ignition coils, and so on), lithium-ion batteries, and DVD players, as well as agricultural goods such as strawberries, peaches, and persimmons, among others. Japan will become able to export these categories of goods to India under more favorable terms.

 

In addition, it will be easier to take business trips, accept new cross-border job assignments, and travel for investment purposes between the two countries.

 

What's more, Japan is also moving forward in considering economic partnership with India under the framework of ASEAN+6 (the members of ASEAN plus Japan, China, the Republic of Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand), and today's agreement will be a foothold towards achieving such a goal.

 

Negotiations with India

 

EPA negotiations with India spanned three years and nine months over a total of 14 meetings held alternately in Tokyo and Delhi. Agreement in principle was reached at the meeting held last September 9, and on October 25, Prime Minister Kan held talks with Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, at the Prime Minister's Office in Tokyo, and signed a Joint Declaration on the conclusion of negotiations. After that, a dinner banquet was held with Prime Minister Singh and his wife and other relevant persons as guests.

 

P201102163    P201102164

Prime Minister Kan shaking hands        Prime Minister Kan delivering  
with Prime Minister Singh of India        an address at the banquet   

 

In the address he delivered at the banquet on this occasion, Prime Minister Kan said, "Our comprehensive economic partnership agreement will further expand trade

 

and investment opportunities as well as exchanges between our two countries. I pledge to continue to work to the best of my ability together with Prime Minister Singh towards the strengthening of Japan's relations with India."

 

Mr. Seiji Maehara, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Anand Sharma, Minister of Commerce and Industry of India, signed the agreement this morning at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The doors to the expansion of future business opportunities for our two countries have finally opened.

 

The "21st-century opening up of Japan" will continue to advance steadily, one step at a time.

 

February 17(Thursday)

No. 15: [Foreign Affairs] 'Opening Japan and Reinventing KIZUNA' -- Resonating with people in Davos

 

At the Davos Meeting attended mainly by world economic and business leaders,Prime Minister Kan delivered a special address.

 

Moderator: Prime Minister of Japan, Naoto Kan.

 

Narration: Davos is a town located in the mountains of Switzerland.
Here, during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum known
as the "Davos Meeting," Prime Minister Kan delivered a special
address whose title is, "Opening Japan and Reinventing KIZUNA."

 

Prime Minister: Today, the world faces major changes that can be likened to a tectonic shift both in national security and in economic fields. Faced with these circumstances, I have set "the Third Opening of Japan" as a grand objective.

 

Narration: This was the first time that the "opening of the country"
was announced abroad. The concept has been repeatedly stressed
since the start of the year.

 

Prime Minister: One specific policy of major importance is the promotion of economic partnerships. With respect to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), the Japanese Government will reach a decision on whether to join negotiations by around June this year.

 

Narration: What the Prime Minister underlined was that this is to
be an evolved form of opening up that can inspire the world, rather
than simple economic liberalization following the model of other
nations.
The Prime Minister introduced this concept directly in Japanese.

 

Prime Minister: At the same time with the opening of the country, we need to forge new connections between individuals, called "kizuna" (interpersonal bonds) in Japanese. There is a need for society-wide activities in which the government and volunteers cooperate to assist those who have fallen on hard times, beyond their family members.

 

Narration: Another point Prime Minister Kan emphasized in his
speech was the vision of revitalizing Japan's agriculture
compatible with the opening of the country.

 

Prime Minister: Two days ago, a Japanese food culture fair took place in Davos. Many people must have enjoyed it. In terms of output, Japan's agriculture ranks fourth in the world. As the attractiveness of Japan's food culture spreads throughout the world, I believe it is possible for Japanese agriculture to revitalize itself as a growing industry.

 

Narration: In addition to the speech, the Prime Minister attended
a dialogue with twelve experts, a Q&A session with world business
leaders, as well as individual meetings in between these events.

 

Narration: Participants commented about the speech...

 

Participant: I love the personality of your Prime Minister We will wait to see him next year [in Davos].

 

Interviewer: How do you feel about the new idea about the "least unhappiness"?

 

Participant: It's great. That's what we all want. And I like his approach.

 

Prime Minister: With this expression of determination as Prime
Minister of Japan, I will bring my speech to a close. Thank you
very much!

 

February 12(Saturday)

My respect towards the affairs in Egypt and my expectations

 

Egypt is now stirring to a tremendous degree. I first would like to express my respect for the fact that the people's peaceful activities demanding a change of government are indicating new developments.

 

On the 29th of January, when the current citizens' movement had only just started, I sent out a message urging reform in my opening remarks in the Special Address I delivered at the Davos meeting, saying "I strongly hope that the Egyptian government creates an administration with broad participation by the Egyptian people through dialogue with a large number of citizens and that both political stability and tranquility in people's lives are restored." Taking into account today's developments, I would like once more to express my expectations that a new administration will come into being democratically.

 

I highly appreciate the fact that Egypt has made such tremendous contributions to the peace and stability of the Middle East and of Africa as a whole. I very much hope that Egypt will in the future play a constructive role in this region, just as it has thus far--indeed, to an even greater degree than it has thus far.

 

I also want Japan and Egypt to continue unwaveringly into the future their long history of friendly and cooperative relations.

 

February 10(Thursday)

Looking beyond the question time in Diet

 

Yesterday I participated in my first Diet debate with each party leader since becoming Prime Minister.

 

We now stand at the very brink with regard to the integrated reform of social security and the tax system, such that we must tackle this issue through the mobilization of our collective wisdom truly as a nation. What is important is not the political situation, but rather the big picture. That is precisely why I looked beyond party lines to bring in Mr. Yosano, asking him to serve as the minister responsible for this matter.

 

Even after I stated repeatedly that I would "put forth an overall direction forward within April and submit a proposal in June," Mr. Tanigaki, who has been asking "how can we get on board any consultations without you first putting forth a plan," would not respond to my question of, "So, will you take part in these discussions?"

 

Mr. Tanigaki, who, in response to my belief that we need to accelerate serious deliberations, repeatedly states that first the House of Representatives should be dissolved for a general election, used the expression, "Slow and steady wins the race." However, it is in fact the dissolution of the Lower House about which we should be "slow and steady." Surely, the correct order is to first carefully hammer out in the Diet the format for reform to be adopted and then ask for the judgment of the public before it enters implementation.

 

Next in order to discuss the crux of the issues from the very outset, I would like to hold a party leaders' debate once more and advance our discussions broadly. With regard to that point I believe that the views of the public and all the party leaders are in perfect alignment.

 

[Related links]

Committee on Fundamental National Policies Joint Meeting of Both Houses at the Diet (Party Leaders' Debate)

 

February 9(Wednesday)

No.14 [Peace] Nine Special Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons Embarked upon a World Communication Tour.

 

The Prime Minister answers the question, "What are the Special Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons that the Prime Minister mentioned in his policy speech last week?" Behind the scenes was there a departure of a ship with heartwarming stories, which got underway the day before the speech was delivered.

 

 

"Have a safe journey!"

 

Narration: On the day before the Diet session started, nine Special
Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons left the Port of
Yokohama and embarked upon a mission to talk about their
experiences as survivors of the atomic bombings in various
countries around the world. This new arrangement of the Special
Communicators is the commitment the Prime Minister made last year
on August 6, the day of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima.

 

Prime Minister: Going forward, I would like to have atomic bomb victims represent Japan as, for example, 'Special Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons' who will spread messages about the horror and inhumanity of the use of nuclear weapons and the value of peace to the world in various international arenas.

 

Narration: About a month after this announcement was issued,
commissioning of atomic bomb victims as Special Communicators began.
Since then, already 17 Special Communicators have been fulfilling
the mission by talking about their experiences in various countries
and to VIPs visiting Japan.

 

Narration: This time, nine people were newly assigned. The oldest
one is Mr. Susumu Tsuboi. He is 82 years old. He was exposed to the
bomb at a factory in Hiroshima. His mother died at home and his
father also died young.

 

Mr. Tsuboi: My house was located in what is now the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima City. Everyone who was in the town at that time passed away. It was an unspeakable tragedy and I hope that I will be able to give a true picture of it.

 

Narration: This is the letter of commission Mr. Tsuboi received
from the government. Prime Minister Kan, who proposed this
initiative, was once engaged in the 10 Feet Campaign to make public
the film records of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
 

 

Prime Minister: I have made significant efforts with staff members of my office and of my colleagues' to screen the recordings of victims filmed immediately after the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Various scenes were recorded in the films, including people whose entire back had been burned. It was so real. I believe that the words spoken by actual victims are the most convincing and carry the reality.

 

Narration: Ms. Hiroko Sakaguchi is the youngest Special
Communicator aboard the ship this time. Also, she is the first
member of the second generation of atomic bomb victims to become
a Special Communicator.

 

Ms. Sakaguchi: The second generation of atomic bomb victims is affected through their parents' body by the after-effects of radiation of the bombings. As such, we have no less strong feelings about the bombings than direct survivors. I am so glad that I was assigned to be a Special Communicator and I am aware of the gravity of my responsibility, all the more so because I did not expect that the government would in fact pay attention to the second generation.

 

Prime Minister: Ultimately, the Special Communicators will represent a great progress of people, or humanity, when the world reaches the stage of abolishing nuclear weapons from all countries.

 

Narration: The nine Special Communicators tour the world aboard
a ship of Peaceboat, a non-governmental organization. Mr. Tsuboi
delivered an address on behalf of the delegation at the departure
ceremony.

 

Mr. Tsuboi: No more Hiroshima. No more Nagasaki.
That is my strong wish. I am determined to make utmost
efforts for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

 

Prime Minister: The 26 Special Communicators for a World without
Nuclear Weapons, whose cooperation I requested, are visiting
various countries around the world to talk about their experiences
as survivors of the atomic bombings. Japan will continue to appeal
for the imperative of nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-
proliferation.

 

Prime Minister: Special Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons, I really appreciate your efforts you will make in talking about your experiences as survivors of the atomic bombings as you tour the world aboard a ship. You are about to carry out a truly significant and highly noble task. Please take care of yourself during the journey and return safe and healthy.

 

Narration: The ship carrying the nine Special Communicators will
arrive at the first port of call in Tahiti on February 5, where
they will start communication activities, fully-fledged, in the
countries of their visit. The round-the-world tour to appeal for
"a world without nuclear weapons" will continue until April 18.

 

"Farewell. I will return soon!"

 

February 7(Monday)

No. 13: [Employment] "Task Force Team for the Employment of New Graduates" faces a crucial moment!

 

The Prime Minister answers the question "What is being done for the employment of new graduates given severe hiring rates?" With the end of the fiscal year approaching, the Government is putting out a last spurt to carry out a policy!

 

 

Prime Minister: I want everyone to have the attitude that you must
do everything you can in the following two to three months to
secure employment for new graduates no matter what, even if it
requires extra effort and personnel.

 

Narration: There are only two more months left in the current
fiscal year. Efforts to provide job hunt support for those who will
soon graduate and who have already graduated recently are now in
full swing. The debate of the Task Force Team
for the Employment of New Graduates is in its final stages as well.
 

 

Team member: I want to carve out the new job opportunities
by using the subsidies, and I think there is a need to establish
a connection between this and Hello Work.

 

Prime Minister: Are you feeling that there have been greater
efforts to promote job-matching with small- and medium-sized
enterprises (SMEs) than before?

 

Team member: We will focus on promoting job-matching
as much as possible by the end of March.

 

Narration: Discussion is not only taking place in the Prime
Minister's Office. Prime Minister Kan also goes to see staff
tackling the employment issue. On an observation visit to Hello
Work, he listened to the actual situation of employment from
students struggling to find a job, and the Job Supporters helping
them.

 

Prime Minister: The Government is full of paper work, but unless
you visit places like this you wouldn't really understand the real
situation.

 

Narration: For example, New Graduate Support Hello Work for
students. Although such facilities have been set up across the
country since last autumn, students themselves pointed out that
they have not been widely known among those students
targeted by this service.

 

Hello Work User: I have always had an image of Hello Work as
being a place which helps those who have lost their jobs. I have
never really associated it with a place which supports students.

 

Prime Minister: Don't you think it would be easier for students to
notice that there exist these kinds of information centers for
their support, like Hello Work, if we posted advertisements around
places where students go to search for jobs?

 

Hello Work User: I think that's the best way to be informed.

 

Prime Minister: Please think about that.

 

Senior Vice Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Yoko Komiyama:
Understood.

 

Job Supporter Yamada: Feeling of alienation is a problem, one
aspect of which is that there are more and more students who are
trying as hard as possible only to find it difficult to find a job,
and this causes severe mental anguish.

 

Narration: Says Mr. Yamada, who has been offering advice for
students struggling to find work. Students who have been
supported by Mr. Yamada also participated in the discussion.

 

Hello Work User: Things have not been going well. I began to think,
"Maybe I'm one who cannot make positive contributions to the
society?" But when I met Mr. Yamada and talked with him,
I began to really feel that I could give it another shot. He changed
my mindset. This April I will be starting work as a system engineer
at an IT company. I want to thank him from the bottom of my heart.

 

Prime Minister: Even if there's information available online, in
the end when we feel down what we want most is to talk with someone.
We want someone to help us get back our courage and spirit.

 

Narration: How far will these students with renewed courage
progress in their job search over the last two months of the fiscal
year? Based on the policies you see on the screen, the Task Force
Team for the Employment of New Graduates will make further
efforts to share information and strengthen job search support for new
graduates and those who have graduated within the past three years
.

 

Prime Minister: You can call this a moment of critical importance.
We will work hard enough to allow us to overcome this next peak.
I truly ask for everyone's assistance with this.