Japan and ASEAN, Always in Tandem: Towards a More Advantageous Win-Win Relationship through My “Three Arrows”

Shinzo Abe, PM of JapanDuring a visit to Southeast Asia, PM Abe delivered a speech on Japan-ASEAN relations in Singapore. Using an airplane to describe relations between Japan and the rapidly growing region, Abe said, “Japan and ASEAN are like twin engines on the right and left wings.” The prime minister also said his Abenomics economic measures would benefit ASEAN countries as both Japan’s imports from and exports to ASEAN members have doubled over the past decade. Abe is apparently determined to further bolster Japan-ASEAN ties. Both Malaysia and Singapore, which Abe visited this week, are participants in negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact. Japan will likely seek ways to partner with them when the TPP talks enter the final stage.

In a three-day trip he visited Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. He visited Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia in January, and Myanmar in May.

Aiming to Catch Up to and Then Overtake Singapore

We have been saying for some time that we want to be the most business friendly country in the world. I wholeheartedly hope for Japan to catch up to Singapore in this regard and, if possible, even overtake Singapore.

ASEAN and Japan Are Twin Engines

ASEAN will play an enormously important role for the Japanese economy within that context.

Over the past decade, the value of Japanese exports to ASEAN has jumped 2.3 times, while the value of imports from ASEAN into Japan has risen to 2.5 times the previous amount.

A look at trends over the past decade shows us that we have run a balanced trade with each other. If you plot our trade figures on a graph, you will find that they track each other almost exactly, in superb fashion.

An expanding Japan is in the best interest of ASEAN. A growing ASEAN is in the best interest of Japan.

Between Japan and ASEAN, we find a state of affairs that affords us the ability to say such things with certainty.

I believe that the effects of the “three arrows” that I have fired will — and, indeed, –must — extend not only to Japan but also to ASEAN.

ASEAN will be the 21st century’s champion in fostering the vast middle class consumer market.

The land, sea, and air infrastructure now being extensively constructed, including through cooperation with Japan, and the connectivity that will intensify as a result, will cause ASEAN’s “economies of scale” to come into full bloom.

Asia has an enormous demand for infrastructure to connect east and west, with ASEAN at the very heart. I would like for Japan’s system technology to be used extensively towards improving the Asian region’s infrastructure, which will require an investment of some eight trillion U.S. dollars by 2020.

Singapore boasts an impressive infrastructure industry and the project creativity and management technology of Temasek and Ascendas. If we can bring these together with the system technology of Japan’s corporations, it would become the strongest “tag team” in the world for building “dream cities,” would it not? Let’s do it. Let’s embark on making that a reality.

Japan, which has a long history of direct investment, is a “resident” in ASEAN from way back.

Take, if you will, the enormous economic area that is about to come into being through the “confluence of the two seas,” stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean. If we were to liken that economic area to an airplane, Japan and ASEAN would be like two engines attached to the right and left wings.

There is no question that we will be able to fly high into the sky.

The Japan I Wish to Create

I hold in mind a certain image of how I would like Japan to be.

More than anything, I want Japan to be a country in which our young generation, and the generation after that, and the one still after that, are able to nurture a dream for the future and make their way forward, their eyes earnestly fixed straight ahead.

I also wish to make Japan a country that offers and promotes peace and stability.

Growth and turbulence are inherent in countries and regions, just as they are unavoidable in the case of human beings.

In particular, rapid growth sometimes exposes us to risks that we did not face before.

There is the possibility that there will come a time when the “public goods” of the sky and the sea, space, and cyberspace, which are by nature to benefit all people equally, come to be seen as the stage for a “zero sum” game.

Economic peaks and valleys, changes in political systems, environmental degradation, and the aging of society — these are all great challenges now poised to visit the countries of Asia, which Japan has been working to tackle for some time.

These are never-ending issues pertaining to the building of democracy, or the rule of law or the legitimacy of the procedures forming the basis for that democracy. But Japan continues to work to tackle these challenges.

In the future, by grappling with these challenges together with the countries of ASEAN, Japan and ASEAN will together be able to carve out their future.

Japan must regain an economy that is more powerful. Japan will foster in Asia a dynamic society in which all people, regardless of race, gender, differences in age, or disabilities, can pursue their potential.

I pledge that by doing so, Japan will carry out its responsibilities to enable ASEAN to attain greater abundance and Asia to become a place where hope shines for the future of its children.

ASEAN, Japan, in tandem.

Let us stride forward together, aiming at still greater heights!

Read the full speech …