Policy Proposals Asia and Oceania Mekong Mission Observations of Keidanren Chairman Hiromasa Yonekura
From February 4 to 9, 2013, the Keidanren mission visited Myanmar and Cambodia. Composed of 140 businesspersons, this was the first Keidanren chairman's mission dispatched to these rapidly growing emerging economies of the Mekong region. The mission was arranged to complement Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to ASEAN and the visit to Myanmar by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Taro Aso in January, as well as to demonstrate the enthusiasm of Japan's public and private sectors to join hands to contribute to the development of the Mekong region and, in turn, to Japan's own growth.
With sights set on ASEAN's economic integration in 2015, intensive discussions were held in both countries on the promotion of cooperation in the three fields of infrastructure development, business environment improvement, and human resource development.
In Myanmar, talks were held with President Thein Sein, Lower House Speaker Thura Shwe Mann, and Mr. Htay Oo, Third Vice-Chairman of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, as well as other leading economic ministers and senior members of the legislature. These talks made us keenly aware that there are high expectations for Japan's role in Myanmar's economic development, in particular for the role of Japan's private-sector.
In the area of infrastructure development, we described unpublicized corporate projects currently under way, and proposed that new yen loans worth ¥50 billion be effectively utilized, for example, to develop the Thilawa Special Economic Zone. We were encouraged by the fact that some Japanese companies are developing a business model for clothing to be manufactured in Myanmar and then exported to China.
With regard to the improvement of the business environment, our proposals included the early start-up of the Japan-Myanmar Joint Initiative which will act as the framework for this, and the rapid conclusion of an investment treaty. Speaker Shwe Mann responded to the proposals positively by expressing the desire to expedite the passage of legislation that reflects Japan's requests. He also stated his hope that Japanese companies would launch operations in the country as soon as possible. With regard to human resource development, the linchpin of Myanmar's economic growth, we pledged to put in place a program to assist in the development of skilled business persons; this pledge was well received.
Based on the outcome of our talks with government and legislative leaders, we concluded a memorandum of understanding with the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI). The memorandum includes provisions for the holding of a joint meeting by Keidanren's Japan-Myanmar Economic Committee and the UMFCCI during fiscal 2013, cooperation for the human resource development program, and for the early start-up of the Japan-Myanmar Joint Initiative. We were very encouraged that the UMFCCI evaluated the meeting as ground-breaking and historic.
In Cambodia, we met with Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh, Minister of Public Works and Transport Tram Iv Tek, and Mr. Sok Chenda, Minister Attached to the Prime Minister and Secretary General of the Council for the Development of Cambodia. Given the sharp increase in Japanese direct investment, we requested that additional efforts be made to enhance the business environment and that a business environment on a par with international standards be established for smooth business operations. They accepted our request.
Since our visit occurred soon after the funeral service for King Sihanouk, who passed away in October last year, we took the opportunity to express once again our condolences to government leaders on behalf of the Japanese business community. We believe that our visit was highly meaningful from the standpoint of goodwill in that this year marks the 60th anniversary of friendship between Japan and Cambodia.
We will develop further the fruits of our mission in such Keidanren activities as the Japan-Myanmar Economic Committee, the Committee on Asia and Oceania, and the Asian Business Summit.
Keidanren will redouble its efforts to promote economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region, for which the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership will act as stepping stones. Keidanren will also endeavor to serve as a bridge between Japan and the emerging economies of the Mekong region, including Myanmar and Cambodia.