Five Priority Issues for the Strengthening of Japan-U.S. Relations


April 15, 1997

Keidanren (The Japan Federation of Economic Organizations) issued a report last year entitled "An Attractive Japan," in which we described our vision of the sort of Japan we should seek to create by the year 2020. In it, we called for the building of a vigorous, internationally-oriented country, one that gives the young hope for the future and is perceived by people around the world as a good place to live, study, and do business. To achieve this goal, it is essential that Japan reform its own economic and social systems, making them even more free, fair, and transparent, and that it actively undertake to fulfill its responsibilities as a member of the international community.

To date, the leadership of the United States has contributed greatly to the development of market economies and the overall stability of the international community. We hope that the United States will continue in this leadership role. But in the context of the dizzily changing international political and economic conditions of the post-Cold War world, it is imperative that Japan now share with the United States the task of global leadership.

Our two nations differ in historical origins, natural settings, and national character; even so, we have developed a mutually beneficial relationship over the half century since the end of World War II, with the bilateral security treaty as the foundation. Politically, economically, and culturally, today we have much in common in terms of objectives, interests, and values. Keidanren's Committee on U.S. Affairs highlighted one such example in its "Japan-U.S. Economic Handbook," which clearly demonstrated how our economic ties of mutual interdependence have grown stronger.

Over the past few years, however, there has been a tendency to focus on the disagreements and differences, rather than the underlying strengths. Trust is being shaken, and mutual interest is fading. Now more than ever, we need to reverse this trend. We should reevaluate the positive and mutually beneficial aspects of the many ties that we have bound, and use them as the basis for action that will benefit not only the bilateral relationship, but the world as a whole.

At Keidanren, considering the significance of the global role played so far by the Japan-U.S. relationship, we believe that it is crucial that this relationship be quickly strengthened. We would like to offer the following five priority issues for improving bilateral relations.

Success in this endeavor will require the patient and steady efforts of people at every level, including politicians, public administrators, businesspeople, journalists, scholars, students, and people with non-governmental organizations, to deepen mutual understanding and widen the channels of communication between our two countries. We hope that this document, which acknowledges the challenges facing this relationship and the necessity of stronger ties, will win the understanding of a wide range of people on both sides of the Pacific, and that it will serve as a guide for action to fortify the bonds of trust between Japan and the United States.

  1. On its own initiative, Japan must rapidly move to reform its high-cost economic structure by eliminating and easing regulations and working to open its market even further.

    It is essential that Japan, on its own initiative, lower the cost of doing business here. Led by strong political leadership, Japan should eliminate and ease excessive regulations and work hard to open its market even further. Keidanren expects all Japanese companies to accept the pain accompanying structural reform and to work towards the prompt achievement of such reform.

  2. The two countries must cooperate to promote stability and development in Asia.

    Strengthening the Japan-U.S. relationship will contribute to regional stability in Asia. The governments of our two countries should enhance their cooperative relationship through repeated frank dialogues on Asian issues. Members of the business community should bolster this activity by likewise exchanging honest views about Asia. In addition, the business community should clearly recognize the important role that the bilateral security arrangements play in promoting regional stability in Asia, and should make its voice heard in discussions of security issues.

  3. Japan and the United States should work together to sustain and develop market economies and improve the global business environment.

    In view of the ongoing globalization of business, Japan and the United States should take the initiative in working to smooth the way for business activities in the global marketplace. In particular, the two countries should work together in support of multilateral institutions such as the WTO and the establishment of harmonized and transparent rules for business.

  4. The two countries should continue their cooperation on development assistance and move forward with their "Common Agenda" to address issues facing humankind as a whole, such as the environment, energy, and food.

    Japan and the US should continue their cooperation in development assistance and tackle the officially agreed "Common Agenda" which involves efforts to resolve issues facing humankind as a whole, such as the environment, energy, and food. It is important for the government and private sector in both countries to work jointly in support of these goals. The private sector should actively offer technology and know-how for dealing with these problems.

  5. The channels of communication between Japan and the United States need to be strengthened on all levels to deepen mutual understanding and assure a relationship of trust.

    Ongoing everyday efforts by people at all levels in both countries to widen the channels of bilateral communication are a fundamental requirement for the strengthening of mutual understanding and trust. Keidanren will work to increase the exchange of people and ideas with counterparts in the United States, and will urge the government to improve conditions for such private sector exchanges.

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