March 18, 2014

1. Introduction

On the occasion of the holding of this “Central Asia plus Japan” Dialogue / the Sixth Tokyo Dialogue, I would like to extend my sincere welcome to all the participants from the countries of Central Asia. Today we also have many attendees from Japan’s academic and economic communities, who are committed to exchanges with Central Asia on a day-to-day basis. The “Tokyo Dialogue” was started as a part of the “Central Asia plus Japan” Dialogue, and it is now in its sixth session. I am very pleased that relevant members of the public and private sectors on the Japan side have once again gathered together to exchange frank opinions concerning the development of relations with Central Asia, and that this type of meeting has started to become a good tradition.

2. “Central Asia plus Japan” Dialogue: 10 Years of Progress

The “Central Asia plus Japan” Dialogue was launched in 2004, and this year we are commemorating its 10th anniversary. As part of this Dialogue, Japan has consistently aimed for the achievement of stability and development based on regional cooperation. In other words, in order to increase development in the countries of Central Asia, Japan has served as a “catalyst” and pushed forward regional cooperation in the five Central Asian countries based on the concept of giving importance to jointly dealing with issues that are common among the countries of the region.

To date, four foreign ministers’ meetings have been held. At the previous foreign ministers’ meeting that was held in Tokyo in November 2012, we first of all narrowed down to 5 areas of regional cooperation that can produce benefits for all countries in the region, including energy saving, disaster prevention, and trade and investment, and then affirmed that we will gradually deepen regional cooperation going forward. This type of approach is based on the progress of ASEAN up to now, which was discussed at the Fifth “Tokyo Dialogue” last year, and this is evidence that each country is focusing on the importance of regional cooperation. Japan, which has played the role of a “catalyst” in this area, heartily welcomes such developments.

3. New Development of Regional Cooperation

As for regional cooperation, up to now we have introduced the activities of countries aimed at overcoming issues in specific fields, and have shared best practices related to cooperation with Japan in the countries of Central Asia.

At today’s meeting, however, we intend to set out a new direction for regional cooperation. Specifically, we are aiming to identify common issues among nations in the region and establish projects that will benefit not only individual countries but also the region as a whole. Cooperation in the field of agriculture will serve as our first “model case” in this regard.

4. Why the Field of Agriculture?

Why have we chosen the field of agriculture? Unfortunately in Central Asia, regional trade and investment are still not very active. I am aware that, although Central Asia has attractive farm products such as vegetables, fruit, meat, and wheat in the field of agriculture, it still appears to be dependent on imports from far-away Europe and China for many of its agricultural commodities and processed goods.

I am convinced that in order to make economic growth in Central Asia sustainable, it is important to expand employment in farming villages and to nurture agriculture as a key industry. The Government of Japan will support efforts by Central Asia in the field of agriculture, and I strongly hope that this will increase the vitality of the region as a whole.

I would greatly appreciate it if the representatives of Japanese companies and experts who are participating today would provide advice or assistance regarding the initiatives that I mentioned from a variety of perspectives.

5. Conclusion

Lastly, I would like to conclude my remarks by saying that I hope today’s discussions will serve as an opportunity for further progress to establish regional cooperation in fields such as agriculture in Central Asia.

Thank you for listening.

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