How does democracy hinder global economic growth?

"Shaping a high-quality society through networked foreign policy"

Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you very much for the invitation to this conference on the future of Asia, which is taking place for the 18th time.

The “future of Asia” envisaged here is closely linked to the foreign policy that I have been promoting since I took office as Foreign Minister of Japan, namely the creation of a stable order in a thriving Asia-Pacific region based on democratic values. Today I would like to speak to you about this, especially about whether this order can be created at all - and if so, in what way. At the same time, I would like to name two important pillars that are of great importance. Firstly, there is “networked foreign policy” and then the creation of a “high-quality society” by “strengthening and expanding the middle class”. First of all, I would like to explain to you what kind of foreign policy I am striving for when I speak of “networked foreign policy”.

"Networked foreign policy" is the attempt to link different agreements on a bilateral and multilateral level in order to shape an order characterized by prosperity and stability in the Asia-Pacific region on the basis of democratic values. In my opinion, such a network is currently emerging. It is a network that contributes to the prosperity of the people in Asia and at the same time a network that is characterized by greater security.
The Asia-Pacific region is expected to continue to act as the engine of the global economy. At the same time, however, there are, as is well known, various risk factors within this region. These are not limited to the often cited risks in the areas of politics and security policy. In the financial sector, for example, the legal and institutional foundations are only just beginning to emerge, or the latent social divide can lead to increased social instability. Inadequate infrastructure is also a risk. These diverse issues can potentially hinder growth within the Asia-Pacific region. In order for Asia-Pacific to make an even greater contribution to the global economy, it is essential that we continue to expand the growth opportunities for this region while minimizing the risks as much as possible.
It goes without saying that the deepening and further development of the Japanese-American alliance, which is a common public good in this region, is necessary. At the same time, we recently proposed a strategic dialogue between the United States, Japan and China. Last month, in view of the regrouping of US forces in Japan, the U.S. and Japanese governments decided to separate the relocation of Futenma Airfield from the other aspects and to begin the regrouping from where possible . This not only resolved the problem that the regrouping was previously intended solely as a comprehensive package solution; on the contrary, it also represents a major step in deepening our alliance so that we can further develop the cooperation between the United States and Japan, which is required in other areas as well as regrouping.
On the other hand, in order to achieve prosperity and happiness for people, it is not enough to strive for quantitative growth in the economy alone. A society that focuses exclusively on its wealth and interests must indeed be described as insecure in terms of sustainable stability. Both between the individual states and in the respective countries themselves, an environment is required in which the respective interests are respected and the abilities of the individual can develop. The creation of a democratic and “high quality society” that does not exclude anyone is, in my view, an important task for all of us who live in the 21st century. A functioning democracy and the elimination of the social divide are essential for the realization of a “high quality society”. As I said at the beginning, the basis for this is a sufficiently prosperous and stable middle class. The fact that Japan achieved such stability and prosperity after the last war is due to the strengthening and expansion of its middle class.
Japan wants to work closely with Asia to build such a society together; The networked foreign policy that I advocated can also make a contribution. This is the practically realized example of the concept of "Human Security" promoted by Japan - in which the dignity of each individual is the focus and everyone should develop their abilities as fully as possible.
I repeat it again: the deepening and expansion of a “high quality society” is an important goal of Japan's networked foreign policy.

In the past year, COP17 has made great strides, paving the way for a new framework. In order to promote effective action against climate change, I believe it is essential to complement the global commitment under the leadership of the United Nations, to promote different approaches that reflect all international diversity.

I would now like to talk about the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The members of ASEAN have made a major contribution and demonstrated great commitment in shaping the prosperous, high-quality society just mentioned. For example, in the past 45 years since ASEAN was founded, economic growth in the five founding states of this community has been more than twice as high as the global average. This shows the central importance of these countries for the economic development of this region. A look at infant mortality shows that it has fallen on a large scale from 62% to 24% over the past twenty years. People's lives have improved considerably as a result. Against the background of this development, the ASEAN countries have now also gained in importance internationally. ASEAN always played a central role in the establishment and further development of numerous forums for multilateral cooperation in the region, such as the East Asia Summit (OAS) or the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
Since the 1990s in particular, the ASEAN countries have achieved an economic upswing. Even if there are differences in the pace of development and therefore there are still different tasks, I believe that ASEAN are working together on their own to solve these tasks. The expansion of material, institutional and personal “connectivity” is probably the best example of these efforts.
Japan has long and strongly supported this stance of ASEAN. My predecessors, for example with the “Fukuda Doctrine” - a concept proclaimed by Prime Minister Tsuneo Fukuda at the time - further deepened the cooperative relations with ASEAN. As part of this process, solid and trust-based bonds were created not only at government level, but also in the private sector and at the level of citizens. The society aspired to by ASEAN has in many ways great similarities with the society that Japan would like to realize. We will therefore continue to work hand in hand with ASEAN and with all our might to create a “high quality society”. As for the connectivity of ASEAN, the summit of the heads of government of Japan and the states of the Mekong region took place in Tokyo in April. It was agreed to further expand the connectivity of the Mekong region with the involvement of Myanmar; the possibility of creating a land corridor to the Indian Ocean and thus to the region of South Asia with its impressive growth also became apparent. Japan will continue to support ASEAN's commitment to bridging the existing divide so that this community can achieve its full economic potential.
Cooperation in the field of disaster prevention is also an important task for the future. Japan itself experienced March 11, but the severe floods in Thailand also occurred in the same year. The 2004 tsunami disaster off Sumatra also sticks in our minds. Today ASEAN act as a manufacturing facility for industry around the world, so in that sense it is a really important task for these states to develop strong disaster prevention skills on their own. Japan supports these efforts, for example, through the "concept of an ASEAN network for disaster prevention" and through this year's conference in Sendai - a high-level international conference on major natural disasters - with which Japan shares its experience and knowledge in this area with the people in Asia shares.

Free market economy is inextricably linked with democracy. Both form the front and back of the same coin. That is why the ASEAN states are making great efforts internally to establish democracy. The Bali Democracy Forum under the leadership of Indonesia is an important undertaking to promote the democratization of Asia and to consolidate democracy, which is of great importance. In the context of this forum, the democracy movement in Egypt was also supported. In this sense, one could say that this approach taking place in Asia even makes a contribution to a “high quality society” worldwide.
When we talk about democratization, we also have to keep Myanmar in mind. I visited Myanmar last December, and President Thein Sein came to Japan in April. In order to further consolidate the course of democratization and national reconciliation in the country, I have also expressed Japan's willingness to support this development. In particular, the people of Myanmar should clearly recognize that if reforms move forward and democratization and reconciliation continue, they can become prosperous themselves. I think it is very important to create a society in which everyone can feel this, and we will continue our support for the reforms in Myanmar in the future.
Democracy is an indispensable prerequisite for creating a “high quality society” in which every individual can achieve happiness. At the same time, of course, it is also of great importance for social stability. Japan will actively support the efforts of the Asian states towards democratization, which are reflected in such approaches.

Japan is striving to create a “high quality society” in Asia and emphatically supports the expansion of the middle class. We will draw up a strategy for this by next autumn, but I would like to briefly explain the four most important pillars to you today.
First, a close economic partnership. It is important for all countries to further expand trade and to link their own demand more closely with the markets of the other. With this in mind, Japan seeks to play a leading role in establishing rules for free trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region through high-level economic partnerships. As you know, we are currently holding consultations with the countries concerned to participate in the negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Together with this, we will enter into negotiations for a free trade agreement between Japan, South Korea and China this year. These two initiatives form, so to speak, two wheels of one and the same car. In addition, we would ultimately like to implement an Asia-Pacific Free Trade Area (FTAAP), which also includes ASEAN and India.
The second pillar consists of support in the area of ​​infrastructure expansion. Indeed, the expansion of the infrastructure is of great importance in promoting growth in the countries of Asia and improving the quality of society. With regard to official development cooperation (ODA) as an important instrument for the expansion of the infrastructure, Japan would like to further promote effective support in this area through the interaction of the public and private sectors and through the organic linkage of financial and technical cooperation.
Third, the provision of cutting-edge technology. The partnership dialogue for low-carbon growth in East Asia recently took place, where I was allowed to act as co-chair. in designing a model for low-carbon growth, it is imperative that Japan be a leader in this field. The training of human resources, the diffusion of environmental technologies at the highest level and the creation of networks within the region - these are the tasks to which we devote ourselves wholeheartedly. While most people in Japan know that the small and medium-sized enterprises in the rural areas of Japan have excellent technology, this is by no means widely known in Asia itself. We would therefore like to actively present the cutting-edge technologies of these companies with the help of ODA in order to offer them for purchase or use. With this approach, which also includes the area of ​​the environment, we will make a contribution to the creation of a “high quality society” for the people of Asia. Fourth, finally, the expansion of intellectual dialogue. In order to promote the cooperation mentioned above, it is of course necessary to expand the political dialogue between the governments. But also the intellectual dialogue with the private sector, i.e. with representatives from business and research - as it is taking place at today's meeting - is, in my opinion, much more important than many people are likely to realize.

In order to advance the approach described above within the Asia-Pacific region, which is characterized by its great diversity, I would also like to skillfully use the values ​​to which Japan attaches great importance. I am thinking above all of the seriousness, courtesy and perseverance that characterize the people in my country. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that it is a characteristic of Japan, yes, an important characteristic of its history, to uphold its own traditions and at the same time to absorb foreign cultures in a flexible way. I think this is also a great asset of my country. It is very important to appreciate the cultures, traditions and values ​​that are rooted in the diverse Asia-Pacific region. And I think that Japan, which - rooted in Asian values ​​- has flexibly adopted values ​​from the West, can play an important role precisely for this reason.
We would be very happy if the other countries could also benefit from the experience of Japan. As an example from the field of education, I would like to mention the opening of the Japan Malaysia Technical Institute last September in Malaysia. This represents a joint project as well as a significant result of the Japanese-Malaysian cooperation, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Japan contributed to this, among other things, in the form of yen loans and the posting of employees from the university sector. We hope that in the future this facility will develop into a base for engineering training based on the Japanese model in the region.
In implementing this engagement in the above-mentioned manner within the Asia-Pacific region, which is highly represented by ASEAN, it is increasingly important to take an approach that encompasses Japan as a whole. With regard to the role of citizens in our country's foreign policy, I advocate a foreign policy that encompasses all areas, in which a wide variety of actors and agencies such as government, municipalities, NGOs, small and medium-sized enterprises and individuals work together in order to generate synergies . This is the first step towards a “high quality society”. Based on such broad participation from the whole of society, I would like to continue implementing this concept.

Finally, I would like to emphasize once again: Japan is striving for prosperity together with the Asia-Pacific region and it would like to create a “high-quality society” based on a stable middle class.My country is proud of its many years of experience in working for democracy and stability in the individual countries and at the same time always respecting the other in its cooperation. Japan will continue to respect the cultures, traditions and values ​​that are rooted in the respective regions and will continue its cooperation, which is characterized by perseverance and diligence. I would also like to ask you, who are here today, for your valued cooperation.

Many Thanks.



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