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Messages from Keidanren Executives March, 2018 Deepening Economic Partnerships within Asia in an Expanded Free Economic Sphere

Ken KOBAYASHI Vice Chair, Keidanren
Chairman of the Board, Mitsubishi Corporation

It is noteworthy that Japan is leading initiatives towards finalizing and putting into effect two major economic partnership agreements, the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement and TPP11. This is a stark contrast with trend towards anti-globalism and national particularism in the USA and Europe. Furthermore, there are also signs that the slowdown in global trade, which has continued for several years, is finally disappearing and it is gratifying to note that trade in Asia, which account for over a third of Japan's trade volume, is also recovering. These ensuing conditions present a great opportunity for Japan to play a leading role in forming and expanding a free and open economic sphere in Asia.

In recent years, Asia's contribution to global economic growth has reached approximately 60%. Economic growth in emerging countries in Asia is also expected to continue over the medium to long-term and economic collaboration among each country towards an expanded free economic sphere will become increasingly important. Economic development in Asia can be boosted through a further deepening of collaboration between Japanese and business partners in other countries focusing on high quality infrastructure developments along with personnel support, while also ensuring that economic partnership agreements come into effect and that their expansion is promoted.

Meanwhile, it is anticipated that with greater economic development, these countries will see a shift from the present focus on "hard" infrastructure, such as power plants and railroads, to one that places greater emphasis on environmentally friendly initiatives and so-called "soft" industries, ones that are more akin to an overall improvement in quality of life. Going beyond merely tangible developments such as infrastructure and contributing more broadly to the creation of affluent societies will become much more important. In this respect, a sustainable and affluent society, which is the aim expressed in our initiatives towards the realization of Society 5.0 and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as promoted by the Japanese government and Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), is also the kind of development that other countries across Asia envision. Japan can contribute to new development in Asia by accelerating these initiatives, building a new economic and social model for achieving this type of society, and popularizing the model among other Asian countries.

With the onset of a free and open economic sphere, economic partnership with the rest of Asia is about to enter a new phase. I applaud initiatives such as those being pioneered by Japan as they support the common goal of achieving a sustainable and affluent society through free economic activities based on economic partnership agreements as the platform.