G20 World Exclusive Interview: “The world, especially emerging economies and developing countries, require a more sustainable and quality development”, the Spokesperson of Japan underscores live from Antalya Turkey

 Shinzo Abe Japan Prime Minister Japan_Arrival airplane_G20_European Sting_.jpg

ANTALYA, TURKEY – NOVEMBER 14 : Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at Antalya International Airport for the G20 Turkey Leaders Summit on November 14, 2015 in Antalya, Turkey. The 2015 G-20 Leaders Summit will be held in Antalya on November 15-16, 2015. Ali Atmaca / Anadolu Agency.

On 16 November 2015, the second day of the G20 Leaders Summit in Antalya Turkey, the European Sting conducted a world exclusive interview with HE Mr Yasuhisa Kawamura, Spokesperson and Director-General for Press and Public Diplomacy of Japan. The comprehensive interview was taken by Panos Katsampanis, Co-Founder of the European Sting, and took place inside a suite of the hotel that hosted the International Media Center at G20 Leaders Summit in Antalya Turkey.

This stimulating unique interview examines the position of Japan in the global agenda on a number of cutting-edge topics, from terrorism, refugee crisis, climate, economy and trade. It forms part of the extensive LIVE coverage of the European Sting at G20 Leaders Summit in Antalya, Turkey. In the following text the questions of Mr Katsampanis are signalled as P.K. and the replies of Mr Kawamura are transcribed mot-a-mot and presented as Y.M.

P.K.: Let me get right to the point; influenced by the shocking news that came to light last Friday from Paris, where the whole world still remains numb by the synchronised and well organised terrorist attacks in the French capital. I begin with the Paris attacks topic because we see that it suddenly has been upgraded to a top ranked issue in the G20 agenda during this hot weekend in Antalya. First, I would truly like your stimulating original comment on this tragedy that hit one of the most important European and global economies; Then, I would like to ask you, Mr Kawamura, the following: Is our world as we know it today at danger? Can ISIS or whatever organised extremist group pose a threat to the global security? What is truly Japan’s position as a strong security pillar to the world’s peace? What about the synergies that Japan is undertaking with the rest of the world to fight terrorism?

Y.K.: “Let me start with the thoughts on Paris incident. We are in a great shock and we expressed a great indignation at the outrageous terrorist attacks in Paris. I would like to express my sincere condolences to all victims and extend my heartfelt sympathies to the injured as well as to the families.

As the Prime Minister Abe said two days ago on Saturday (November 14), Japan is a nation which shares the same values as France and stands together with the people of France at this difficult time and expresses its sincere solidarity. Terrorism should never be tolerated for any reason and we resolutely condemn it. In close cooperation with France and the international community, Japan will continue in its efforts to prevent terrorism. Also we would take antiterrorism measures within our country, Japan, with a stronger sense of security and protect the safety of Japanese citizens overseas. 

For this attack in Paris, President Hollande said that it was ISIL which is behind it. So, we would like to continue working with France. First of all, we have to find out more details in the investigations and then we might consider what we should take towards such a challenge. Having said that, we have been victims of terrorism also in February, so we enhanced our measures against terrorism which include the antiterrorism overseas including the training of the officials concerned and I gave the warning to our embassies overseas to be in better communication with our overseas Japanese citizens. Thus, all those things have been already done.

In the international front we decided to accelerate more frequent exchange of information and policies in those areas with our counterpart countries. More to the core of the issue, the international community and especially this part of the world suffers from the influx of the huge number of the refugees from Syria and have to deal with this because this is absolutely plight for the people and for the community and country. In the New York location of the United Nations General Assembly we disclosed a plan to deal with this which has three different sector approaches and we made a commitment of 810 million US dollars; Japan tripled the amount of its assistance towards refugee crisis compared to last year in order to meet with the immediate demand to really alleviate the difficulties and problems faced by friend countries like Turkey and other major neighbour countries of Syria. 

I said three; three means having different scenarios and medicines towards the problem. The first one is the root cause of the problem. We take a more societal approach because terrorism/extremism rises out of frustration and inequalities; in order to lessen this burden on society we cooperate with countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa so that such an element is being removed. More precisely in the areas of education, employment, creating industry policy, sanitation, and in the water offer.

Infrastructure is one of the answers. We provide then to those countries social conditions improvement of about 750 million U.S. dollars with this new initiative. Of course the refugees themselves have the anxiety of their life, so we need to get them food, shelter and relief; having to work with the United Nations organizations dealing with this question. So, for those programs we decided to triple the amount of assistance this year to 810 million US dollars and also the neighbouring countries, non EU-member countries, like Serbia and Macedonia, which also suffer because they are the route of outflow of refugees. 

For Turkey which is the host of G20, Prime Minister Abe showed respect and understanding sympathy to the Turkish leader because, according to the president, they accepted to receive more than 3 million refugees so far, but the international available statistics showed that is something like 2 million. But when our Prime Minister met with president Erdogan the day before yesterday (November 14), the latter said it was more than 3 million.

For Turkey, out of the 810 million dollars, we have already decided to provide 375 million US dollar in the form of yen loan to the Turkish government which will give the fund to local communities to receive the refugee flow. Especially this money should be spent on improving the quality of drinking water and sewage system because those are crucial specifications for their survival and we are happy to work along with it. So a great portion of this package should go to Turkey”. 

P.K.: According to the official declaration from the Turkish Prime Minister, Mr Ahmet Davutoglu, there are three pillars in the priorities of G20 this year, which is hosted by Turkey: “Strengthening the global recovery and lifting the potential (macro-policy cooperation, investment, employment, trade)”, “enhancing resilience (financial regulation, international financial architecture, international taxation and anti-corruption)” and “buttressing of sustainability (development, energy sustainability, climate change finance)”. Could you rank those pillars from the most important to the least significant one for Japan? In which pillar do you see that Japan has the least and the most work yet to do on? Finally, as we are reaching closely the end of the year, it is high time we start assessing the extent to which G20’s pillars or goals in 2015 are satisfied. How would you judge the overall performance of the G20 countries in relation to the goals set? Where does this leave us to in 2016 and what do you think the priorities should be next year in China?

Y.K.: “Let me start with what the G20 is established for. I think originally the G20 is established to allow discussions among the world leaders for a better coordination of policies and international economic situations. So the core of the issue as I understand is the sustainable and robust growth and as this years’ G20 is being held under the leadership of President Erdogan (Turkey), I should pay respect to his suggestions of leadership. He spelled out the core of this year as the 3 I’s. The 3 I’s means: inclusiveness, implementation and investments. I think that those 3 I’s are crucially important to attain the goal of the G20 even back to the original format and especially Turkey came to reflect the leaders’ attention on inclusiveness. Inclusiveness contains also the element of development and the benefits of development that should be spilled up to the small and medium size industries and feeding of the poor.

So, I think it is a very balanced approach, and this is the core of most important elements for the world, especially G20, to attend the goal of a sustainable and robust growth. Japan has a long history of meeting the fiscal because we started from similar status to the one of Turkey and so an external policy especially in support of developing countries already we installed such an element. So, we were very happy to share with the world leaders this time how such an initiative can be materialized. 

Prime Minister Abe in the first session of yesterday (November 15) of G20 meeting underlined the infrastructure building, but not the simple infrastructure building because many members countries of the G20 face huge demand of the building infrastructure so that rate of growth is high. But the question now is the quality of development. The world, especially emerging economies and developing countries, require a more sustainable and quality development. The quality, in the Japanese philosophy, means that it is not simply about the cost effectiveness. The construction cost of big railways, airports and ports is a big problem. But if the countries rush for cheap products, then 5-6 years later they may have the problems. Our approach to the issue is a more life-cost assessment.

The infrastructure carries various costs not limited with the cash for purchasing materials. For example, in the local communities’ approach we need a good consent support of the local communities and the people in order to build huge infrastructure buildings and if we do not have these preconditions for such a project, even if it’s a very ambitious one, we will surely have a deadlock. We shouldn’t do this. Our approach is that infrastructure building should be a more community pro people and the life-cost assessment and also environmentally friendly. So it may mean that the cash cost seems to be higher than the minimum cost. But if you think of the whole life of cost, then it would be more reasonable. Assured and socially acceptable environmentally friendly approach is necessary. We have experience with this in the past. Japan is very pleased to share our experiences with the G20 nations. Especially the Turkish government is inclined to inclusive growth, and I think that it is a perfect match this one. 

I hope that within a short period of time you will see the document of a sum up of the G20 discussion”.

P.K.: Last Friday the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met here in Turkey in view of the G20 Leaders Summit with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Mr Erdogan described this meeting, and I quote him exactly here, as: “the most concrete and powerful manifestation of the political will of the two countries”. Similarly, Prime Minister Abe declared, and I quote him as well: “Japanese and Turks are connected with strong ties, the two wings that assist the huge Asia Continent from East and West”. In hard figures and numbers we hear that this translates to an approximate 10 billion dollar upgrade of trade investment ties between Japan and Turkey. Why has Japan currently decided to invest so much on the Turkish economy? Which Turkish sectors are most important for Japanese investment? What does this new trade deal between Turkey and Japan truly mean in geopolitical terms? Finally, what would you think will be the impact of the new Japan-Turkey deal on the global economy?

Y.K.: “Concerning Japan-Turkish relationships, Prime Minister Abe underlined that the two countries share the common values of democracy and the rule of law and economically speaking from the Japanese view point, Turkey has three good merits. The first one is potentiality; a big population of 70-80 million and per capital income is over 10 thousand dollars. It is potentially a big one.

Secondly is the collectivity. Turkey is the gateway for other continents such as North Africa, Europe, Central Asia and the dynamism of the Turkish economy. Turkey is the dynamo of the region. So, regarding the expected investment areas for Japanese industries, we are successful in the mega infrastructure project such as the nuclear power plants, and bridges and tunnels and metro. Marmara was the first metro service and the two leaders got on the first train to celebrate it; this comment you mentioned over the two wings was made on that. The future potential areas for the Japanese technology part will be communications, satellite, hospitals, high-speed trains and bridges and so forth”.

P.K.: According to the OECD (November 2015), the economic expansion of Japan was derailed in 2015 by a sharp slowdown in demand from China and other Asian countries and sluggish private consumption. Output growth is projected to pick up from around 0,5% in 2015 to 1% in 2016, as rising real wages support consumer spending. However, with the consumption tax hike in 2017, growth is likely to slow down to 0,5 %. Headline consumer price inflation, which has fallen close to zero with the decline in oil prices, is projected to reach 1,5% per cent by the end-2017. At the same time, according to the same source (OECD, November 2015), global growth in 2015 is forecast to reach 2,9%, while in 2016 3,3% and in 2017 3,6%. Obviously Japan is seriously lagging behind the average global economic expansion in terms of growth rate. Do you see this as a big threat to the Japanese economy? How does Japan plan to contemplate and effectively face this economic outlook? Is the Japanese economy ready to face the fierce global economic prospects and challenges in the years to come? Finally, what is your best estimated and wishful hope or aspiration for the Japanese growth rate in 2020?

Y.K.: “First of all, OECD’s economic data is always appreciated by the Japanese business and Japanese policy makers; so we always welcome the sometimes thorny advices and assessments of the economic conditions. But having said that, currently as Prime Minister said in yesterday’s session (November 15) in the G20, the current state of the play of the world economy, which seeks sustainable and robust growth, the developed advanced economies including Japan are doing better than the emerging economies, namely China and others.

The Prime Minister mentioned that the Chinese declining trend needs to be addressed. They have a problem of their overcapacity, competitiveness and so forth. So the China factor is important because China’s economy will decide the trend of the world economic outlook. We think that yesterday’s discussion paid attention to the Chinese economic management; we hope that China will catch up. Coming to Japan, the Prime Minister also is promoting vigorously its economic policy named Abenomics. Abenomics was extremely successful over these three years in terms of various criteria. The first one is GDP growth; it grew from negative to positive growth. Also, the corporate profitability ratio is record high, real wages are increasing and new job creation is over a million, with more female jobs (Webenomics) to be created. I think all those things are considered and we are making a record breaking good performance of the economy. 

Deflation slacks to 10 years. The biggest task of Abenomics is to get rid of deflation and we are successfully managing it at one more step; we can say we are out of the deflation. We are surely getting back to the orbit of “virtuous cycle”. As you mentioned, the consumption tax rate is going to be a challenge to us but it also requires us to be decisive and resolutive on this year’s budget deficit. The budget deficit that the government is required to take is towards the road to address this issue. In order to get the correct message by the world, OECD communities hope that Japan should take correct measures to deal this issue. When you take a right balance of sustainable growth, deflations end and at the same time you have to take the right position with the question to the budget deficit”.

P.K.: In just a few weeks from now the UN Climate Conference COP21 will be taking place in Paris at a critical point for the world’s action against climate change. Yesterday, the European Sting reported here live from the G20 International Media Center the UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, stressing that “low carbon is inevitable and beneficial” and that ”we are on a path of low carbon economy as science demands”. Where does Japan exactly stand when it comes to climate change action? Most importantly, what will be Japan’s constructive contribution to the UN Climate Conference in Paris in a few days from now? Is the climate change agreement going to be binding for all the UN member states?

Y.K.:”All the parties concerned should participate in the climate arrangement in a fair and transparent one. That is Japan’s position. It does not mean that it is going to be a legally binding or legally not binding. It is too late for us to make a black or white comment on this one.

Japan’s core of the essence of the proposal for COP21 is -26% reduction out of 2013 base year or 2003 base year. In the case of the 2003 base year approach, the reduction rate is -25.3%. So, there is no difference between the 2013 or the 2003 approach. Some people may misunderstand that Japan is cheating because after its nuclear stopped 2013 base year approach seems to be effective for an as much reduction of CO2 as possible. But even with 2003 base year approach our progress on Greenhouse Gases makes a big difference. We are very sincere. This latter reduction is internationally comparable level even with the United States and the EU”.

P.K.: After 5 long years of meticulous long negotiations the Transpacific Trade Partnership Agreement (TPP) was finally signed last month by the 12 countries in the pacific region. Ten days ago Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that “The TPP is the structure where Japan and the US can lead in economic rule-making”. How much growth do you estimate that TPP is able to bring to Japan, US and the remaining 10 countries of the trade block? How much will TPP be able to contribute to the world’s economy and by when?

Y.K.: “The merit of the TPP is the high standard of the rules in trade and investments and already the TPP economies enjoy the 40% of the world’s GDP. It is truly impressive. Japan is engaging in negotiations with China and South Korea for a trilateral free trade agreement. China is another big party and South Korea is also a meaningful size of economy. What we discussed in Seoul two weeks ago, the leaders discussed about FTA negotiations but we expressed hope that the TPP is the high standard and will naturally be expected that those elements are considered as the benchmark. TPP shows a good role model of a trade agreement of the 21st century and it passes the Asia Pacific trade and investment regimes. So I hope that TPP experiences to be applicable and shared in the region parts”.

P.K.: TPP is allegedly bringing together 40% of the world’s trade and global economy, led by the strong US lever. According to President Obama, the launch of TPP “means that America will write the rules of the road in the 21st century”. I guess a big part of the remaining 60% is aspired to be covered by China’s One Belt One Road initiative. In addition, the latest reportage from Brussels, where the European Sting is based, shows that recently the EU is very determined to invest a lot of resources on the ongoing China-EU substantial trade upgrade (Chinese investment on Juncker’s plan). At the same time the EU is heavily pushing forward the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a gigantic trade agreement with the US. Given your experience and global insights how do you envisage the world’s trade in 10 years from now? How will the 2025 trade picture effectively look like? And what position do you aspire Japan to take inside it?

Y.K.: “This is a very impressive question because you oversee the next ten years.

Nobody is so sure what tomorrow might bring to us. Having said that, there is one clear cut agreement that each set of rule installed in the TPP agreement should be a high standard one. Because 21st century is such a time and feeling is one of the serious challenges that nobody was expecting in the 21st century. So this is a good example of the requirement of the times and the new trade agreement eventually incorporates such a thing. Thus, TPP is a good model for the rest of the world. I don’t know about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or the EU-China trade agreement but I think the TPP is a good object for each one of them to study.

Japan is also seeking an agreement with the EU, known as Japan-EU agreement, and yesterday Mr Juncker and Prime Minister Abe met and discussed this issue as well. We set a goal that we should reach the general agreement of EPA with the European Union by the end of this year”.

P.K.: Do you think the Japan-EU EPA is still feasible in 2015 with less than 40 days left till the end of the year?

Y.K.: “Even if we couldn’t make it, we would still commit ourselves to the early cooperation of the 2016 but it doesn’t mean that we have decided to give up the last minute effort for reaching a positive agreement in the 2015. The important thing here is that we still are on a serious engagement with the EU and this is another area of the bilateral cooperation”.

P.K.: We notice this intensive effort from many big powers around the world to expand and demolish trade barriers by investing on trade and boost their economies and global growth. Where is this trade map leading to?

Y.K.: “In the bottom line it is not how to reach the goal; the goal is a freer and more investor friendly environment. One way could be WTO, all countries in an equal access to the world, but WTO may not be so enthusiastic. The bilateral trade deals like FTA were born like spaghetti bawl, people were worried for the spaghetti bawl incident, and then the trend continues without returning to the original WTO multilateral free trade form in a way that TPP is a kind of an evolved way of trade and deal. So the content, the essence and the quality of the rule whether those rules are applicable in meeting with the final goal, that is to be secured”.

P.K.: Do you believe that the world will be a better place after so many massive trade pacts around the world trying to boost growth, jobs, and infrastructure? Indeed we would live in a better and more prosperous world? 

Y.K: “We need to be optimistic in order to be creative. My suggestion is that in order to be a future positive approach we need to look back to what we have achieved and have arranged studying from the ash devastation of the World War II. We learn the mistakes of the policy, protectionism and we then create a WTO and then complementarily in the form of FTA’s and EPA’s.

Evolution is still going on but the world is trying to reach the final goal. And this goal is a freer and more balanced and trade of investment of what we are making and we continue to explore that possibility with the spirit of the positive future-looking attitudes. Although there are a lot of problems and challenges we should not be shy away. For example, China is very successful in reducing the absolute poverty because of the free trade assistance under the WTO. This is encouraging element to rely on the free trade and free investment mechanism”.

P.K.: Free trade can be our anchor to have stability and peace in this world?

Y.K.: “Yes, I think so”.

About the interviewee

HE Mr Yasuhisa Kawamura, Spokesperson and Director-General for Press and Public Diplomacy of Japan, G20 Antalya Turkey 2015

Mr Yasuhisa Kawamura is the Spokesperson and Director-General for Press and Public Diplomacy of the Japanese government. Mr Kawamura is a diplomat with extensive top diplomatic experience, serving at various stations in India, New York and Indonesia. Mr Kawamura holds a Masters from Amherst College in USA and a Bachelors from Hitotsubashi University in Japan.

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