The recent ministerial meeting in Hanoi by the 11 members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership concluded with a joint statement that specifically re-affirmed the strategic and economic significance of the TPP, committed to early implementation of the TPP agreement, and incorporated plans to launch a process for the evaluation of future options including initiatives aimed at encouraging the participation of the US. I welcome the clear confirmation of the commitment by the 11 member-nations to implement the TPP agreement at an early date. I understand that a high working-level meeting is scheduled to convene in Tokyo in July, and I hope the Japanese government will demonstrate strong leadership at that gathering. I also look forward to a demonstration of support for an 11-member TPP agreement at the upcoming APEC summit in November.
The US government has indicated its readiness to pursue negotiations with Japan on a bilateral free-trade agreement. Perhaps the successful conclusion of a TPP agreement will enable bilateral negotiations with the US to set the stage for the integration of an FTA with the TPP at some point in the future. Although I am hopeful that we will ultimately have a 12-member TPP that includes the US, for now I want to see solid progress made toward a TPP 11 deal.
I recently attended the Belt and Road Forum summit on international cooperation in Beijing and came away impressed that it was a resounding success. In remarks delivered at the opening ceremony, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the development of an initiative along five paths — the paths of peace, prosperity, open markets, innovation, and culture — backed by international cooperation to promote the creation of a giant Eurasian economic zone encompassing Asia, Europe, and Africa. Xi Jinping insisted that this initiative would not include geopolitical or military overtones. Headed by LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai, the Japanese delegation to the forum announced that the Japanese government will be an active participant. I believe that was received as an important message not only to China but the international community as a whole. Although the Belt and Road Initiative touts improved linkages between infrastructure and free and unimpeded trade, the degree of enthusiasm shown by nations that participated in the forum was clearly mixed. Whereas some countries expressed misgivings about potential political motives, others were concerned about the burden of infrastructure development. However, on the whole, most were committed to actively participating in the Belt and Road Initiative.
I attended a meeting by LDP Secretary General Nikai and President Xi Jinping on May 16. Nikai delivered a personal letter from Prime Minister Abe to Xi Jinping, who, upon reading it, replied that while Japan and China have some issues to work out, he wanted to help build a friendly bilateral relationship that looks to the future.
Japan and China are currently planning a variety of events to celebrate the 45th anniversary this year of the normalization of diplomatic ties and in 2018, the 40th anniversary of the signing of their Treaty of Peace and Friendship. I currently head the Steering Committee for Promotion of Bilateral Exchange in Celebration of the 45th Anniversary of Normalization and 40th Anniversary of the Signing of the Peace Treaty between Japan and China, with LDP Secretary General Nikai being the top advisor. Over the next two years, organizers will promote a variety of ventures in bilateral exchange not only within the diplomatic and trade arenas but also at the grassroots level, including cultural, science, and sporting events. We want to make both 2017 and 2018 symbolic years of friendship ties between Japan and China. First up will be the Japan-China Green Expo that kicks off in Beijing on June 13 to showcase Japan’s advanced technologies in the environmental field. The last Japan-China Green Expo was held in 2011 but in 2012 it was canceled just before its opening date and suspended for several years thereafter due to pending issues between Japan and China. However, the upcoming expo this June will be held as a special event in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral ties. December this year will occasion the Third Japan-China Business Leader and Former High-Level Government Official Dialogue. Together, these events will serve as key foundations for improved friendship ties between Japan and China in the economic dimension. I look forward to seeing a multilayered mix of events in exchange and want to aid the development of stronger Japan-China ties.