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APEC Summit Adopts “Yokohama Vision” [ 2010.12.03 ]

[NewsJapan.net] At a meeting hosted by Japan in Yokohama on November 13–14, leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum agreed on the “Yokohama Vision” for pursuing an “economically-integrated community” that will be “robust” and “secure.” Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who chaired the APEC summit, said at a press conference after the meeting that “agreement was reached on the direction of ultimately achieving a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific [FTAAP], encompassing the entire region of APEC. If Japan is to continue to survive as a country with vitality, it has to go together economically with all the Asia-Pacific countries” (Asahi Shimbun, evening edition, November 15).

Although the “Yokohama Vision” stopped short of clarifying a target date to achieve the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, it was the first time for APEC to come up with an articulate notion of “community” in its 21-year history. Until now there had only been a loose agreement adopted at the APEC summit in Bogor, Indonesia, in 1994, calling on developed economies to achieve free and open trade and investment by at least 2010 and developing economies to do likewise by 2020.

The “Yokohama Vision” set forth a “Growth Strategy,” also APEC’s first, the progress of which will be reviewed in 2015. Its implementation, the leaders agreed, will focus on five pillars: (1) the rectification of economic imbalances in the region, (2) stronger bases for growth, (3) environmental measures, (4) technological innovations, and (5) security measures.

With regard to concrete steps toward the realization of an FTAAP, the document said it would further “develop and build on ongoing regional undertakings, such as ASEAN+3 [Japan, China, and South Korea], ASEAN+6 [ASEAN+3 plus Australia, India, and New Zealand], and the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP], among others. To this end, APEC will make an important and meaningful contribution as an incubator.”

Throughout the APEC summit and related ministerial meetings, Prime Minister Kan made clear his commitment to an FTAAP. This is seen as meaning the need for Japan to further open up to other countries in the region---or, as the prime minister said, the need for Japan’s second opening. Prior to the Yokohama meeting, the Japanese government on November 9 announced the “Basic Policy on Comprehensive Economic Partnerships,” by which Japan is expected to start consultations with each of the nine countries already involved in the TPP negotiations, including the United States, regarding Japan’s possible participation.

In his bid to make Japan more open in trade and other economic activities, Prime Minister Kan faces formidable domestic resistance, especially from the agricultural sector. How he will overcome this domestic opposition is seen as a major test of his leadership. According to news reports, after the APEC meeting ended, Prime Minister Kan on November 15 instructed relevant ministers to study concrete measures to promote economic alliance with the Asia-Pacific region and to regenerate Japan’s agriculture.

Major Newspaper Editorials (all on November 16)

The Yomiuri Shimbun editorial commented, “Compiled by Japan, which served as APEC chair for the first time in 15 years, the declaration contained the first use of the term open ‘community’ in reference to APEC’s future vision. It was a breakthrough for the forum, which started as a loosely bound framework, that its members agreed to pursue comprehensive economic cooperation.”

The Mainichi Shimbun editorial stated, “In Yokohama, a new breeze was blew into the long-stagnant trade liberalization moves in the Asia-Pacific region. Twenty-one countries and territories, including Japan, the United States, and China, agreed to start working on concrete steps toward the realization of an FTAAP. Their aim is purported to be the creation of a robust ‘community’ through regional economic integration.” It went on, “This strong leadership by the region’s leaders is expected to accelerate and spread moves toward liberalization around the world.”

The Nikkei asked, “How to face up to China with its growing influence? How to cooperate with the United States, whose strategy is to actively engage in regional economic integration? What has emerged from the APEC summit is Japan’s heavy responsibility to play a role in building an economic order in the region.” It continued, “Japan is in a crucial strategic position on which the future of the Asia-Pacific region hinges. It is with this realization that Prime Minister Kan should work to rebuild Japan’s economic diplomacy.”

The Sankei Shimbun observed, “The ‘Yokohama Vision’ called clearly for the realization of an FTAAP and specified as one path toward it the TPP, which is being pushed by the United States and other countries. On the sidelines of the conference, bilateral summit talks were also held with the United States, China, and Russia. What matters is the content. With regard to the TPP, for example, Japan’s decision to start consultations is being hailed as a positive step forward. But the fact is that Japan has not yet decided to participate in it, only standing indecisively on the doorstep.”

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