Speeches by the Foreign Minister

Foreign Policy Speech by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu on the occasion of The 1st Tokyo Global Dialogue(provisional translation)

December 2, 2019
Japanese

  • Foreign Policy Speech by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu on the occasion of The 1st Tokyo Global Dialogue1
  • Foreign Policy Speech by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu on the occasion of The 1st Tokyo Global Dialogue2
Let me extend my heartfelt congratulations on the convening of the 1st Tokyo Global Dialogue today in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) under the able leadership of Mr SASAE Kenichiro, President of the JIIA.

As the international community witnesses the rise of a number of emerging countries, the shift in the global power balance is accelerating and becoming increasingly complex, and uncertainty over the existing order is growing.  Against this backdrop, today’s theme -"Is it possible to build an international order based on free, fair and transparent rules?"- is indeed timely.

I see the recent acceleration of confrontation in the international community in such forms as regional conflicts and trade friction, and it makes me think about “the Thucydides’s Trap” proposed by Professor Graham Allison of Harvard University.  I was one of his students. 

Obviously, people’s opinions are divided on this concept, and I do not particularly subscribe to historical determinism, or the argument that humankind will inevitably repeat struggles for hegemony.

However, it is also true that throughout human history we have gone through many dramatic shifts in the balance of power, such as seen in the Peloponnesian War and the Punic Wars in ancient times, the battle over maritime hegemony amongst Portugal, Spain, and England in the early-modern era, and the end of the Cold-War structure in the 20th Century.

Looking back at history, I reflected on what lessons I can learn from this theory, as the person in charge of the foreign policy of Japan, a country that has achieved progress under the blessings of the liberal post-war world order.

After some deliberation, I have come to a set of conclusions about the direction which Japan’s foreign policy should aim for.  It is this: precisely because of the current reality where existing great powers and emerging powers are competing for influence, claims must not be asserted by force.  Rather, what should take place is an effort to find a solution based on the rules of the international community.  At the same time, the international order needs to be made more sustainable, through the creation of new rules reflecting various changes in the economy, society, and technological innovation.

1 Following the existing rules and making them stronger

Let me first talk about Japan’s diplomatic stance to protect and deepen the “rules-based international order.”

To make it easier to understand, let me talk in specifics and give you an example of the rule of law at sea, which is of the utmost geopolitical importance.

In 2014, Prime Minister Abe announced the “Three Principles of the Rule of Law at Sea.”  These were: (1) making and clarifying claims based on international law; (2) not allowing the use of force or coercion in trying to change the status quo; and (3) seeking to settle disputes by peaceful, diplomatic means.

Approximately five centuries ago, in the Age of Exploration, human activities started becoming truly global.  With this came the development of rules regarding the seas, a new stage for such exploration.  In many cases, international relations concerning the rule of the sea were actually characterized by clashes between major powers using force.  Major powers caught in “the Thucydides’s Trap” fought over maritime hegemony, and through this process were maritime rules formed.

Finally in the 20th Century, efforts began to codify rules of the sea that would bring common benefits to nations and peacefully settle maritime disputes.  The culmination of such efforts can be found in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which entered into force in 1994.  The human race has thus finally attained a comprehensive and integrated legal system based on principles such as the freedom of navigation. 

Today, however, the seas, especially those in the Indo-Pacific, have become the stage for the rapid rise of emerging countries.  We must not go back to the era of the struggles for maritime hegemony that have characterized modern history.

The most important thing, then, is for every country to raise and share international awareness that their actions should be in compliance with UNCLOS as the comprehensive standard, and that disputes should be settled peacefully.  Equally important is for us to get those maritime rules to evolve, so that new challenges such as those involving the marine environment can be addressed and the common interest of mankind can be ensured into the future.

Charles Darwin, known for his theory of evolution and for being the author of On the Origin of Species, said that the species that survive are neither the strongest nor the biggest but rather the ones that are most responsive to change.

The Government of Japan, at various levels including Prime Minister Abe and myself, and on a number of occasions, has been consistently advocating the importance of abiding by and advancing the rules governing the seas and oceans.  Japan is also contributing to the further development of the legal order concerning the seas and oceans to effectively address new challenges in fields such as climate change, the marine environment, and marine resources.  Through such efforts, Japan is working to make the overall legal order built around UNCLOS even more robust.

2 Leading efforts to make new rules to meet the needs of the times

Another initiative of Japan involves making new rules.  Here I would like to take an example of trade issues.

Amidst the recent surge of protectionist tendencies across the world as a reaction to globalization, Japan has always been a flagbearer of free trade, and has consistently led efforts to create rules for the 21st century that can respond to new economic activities concerning global supply chains, digital economy, etc.

The TPP11 is the prime example of this.  In January 2017, when the Trump administration withdrew from it, there was brief apprehension that the TPP would find itself set adrift.  Japan, however, led the TPP11 with the firm conviction that it was vital for the eleven countries other than the United States to continue being united and form an economic sphere based on free and fair trade in this region.  Such efforts bore fruit as the TPP11 was signed in March 2018.  I travelled to Santiago, Chili, for the signing ceremony myself, and I had to make a four-day trip without an overnight stay because the Diet was in session.  The TPP11 then entered into force on 30 December, 2018, which was probably earlier than anyone had expected.

Through various trade agreements, the Government of Japan continues to expand the area where high-quality rules are applied.
The TPP11, the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement, and the Japan-US Trade Agreement are together on track to form a free economic sphere that covers 60 percent of the world’s GDP, and Japan sits at the hub of this sphere.

Another point is that the global economy is going to become more and more “data-driven” in the future.  Rules regulating free data flow are key to the data-driven economy.  Whether those rules can adequately reflect the reality of the expanding digital economy, be kept free and fair, and respond to the overwhelming speed with which ICT technology advances, will fundamentally impact our ability to achieve the future growth of the global economy.

Japan’s leadership in this field led to the “Osaka Track,” launched on the sidelines of G20 Osaka Summit in June this year.  It created growing momentum for international rules-making on the data flow and e-commerce.  Thereafter, vibrant discussions on advancing the “Osaka Track” have been happening at multilateral fora such as the WTO and the OECD.  At last week’s G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Nagoya, the Ministers agreed to accelerate this effort.

At the same time, on the bilateral front, Japan is working to demonstrate a standard for digital economic activities to the world by signing an extremely progressive digital trade agreement with the United States.

What I would like to stress here is that Japan is not merely pursuing the expansion of a free economic sphere alone.  Underlying Japan’s approach is a strategic judgement on what a desirable new framework would look like for the Asia-Pacific, the center of the world’s growth, from not only an economic but also a geopolitical perspective.

Ensuring the US presence in the Asia-Pacific’s strategic framework is essential, and as a US ally Japan is assuming the responsibility for making this happen.  In this connection, the Japan-US Trade Agreement, whose Diet deliberations are now in their final phase, is going to play the role of anchoring the United States in the free economic sphere of the Asia-Pacific.

Furthermore, Japan is making diplomatic efforts to realize the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with the participation of all 16 countries, including India.  I was actually in India until yesterday, attending the Japan-India Foreign Ministers' Strategic Dialogue.  Whether we can keep India in the RCEP we cannot yet tell for certain at this moment.  Yet, what is driving our efforts is Japan’s firm conviction that the framework of the RCEP can truly boost the region’s economic potential only with the participation of India, which is the world’s most populous democratic country and a major strategic player connecting the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

3 Free and fair economic development by expanding the range of options

How, then, can we bring actual economic prosperity by increasing every country’s potential while following such rules?  This question leads to my next point about Japan’s diplomacy concerning development cooperation.

I believe what underpins freedom and fairness, both building blocks of prosperity, is having a choice.  Whether in making personal life choices or making policy choices for a state, a true “self-fulfillment” becomes possible only when there are options to choose from.
Where there is only one option available, the potential of an individual or a nation cannot fully bloom.  The same can be said to business strategies.

The same realization underlies Japan’s development cooperation.  Let us take Japan’s efforts to improve connectivity, for example.  Japan supports the formation of economic corridors and logistics infrastructures in various regions of the world, so that they can advance their economic activities in a multi-layered network of connectivity, with a number of options available for the movement of people and goods and without having to be subjected to a single supply chain.

Furthermore, Japan’s development cooperation is not merely about providing funding and building infrastructures and facilities, but we make a point of taking the long view and generating local employment, and offering capacity building and human resource development, so that our partners can take ownership of their own economic development.

In infrastructure development projects, Japan attaches importance to strengthening the social vibrancy of partner countries by, for example, enhancing resilience against natural disasters and fostering community-building.

At the Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting in November, Prime Minister Abe launched an initiative to expand Japan’s support in three areas: quality infrastructure development, improving financial access and supporting women, and green investment.  Today, following up on that, I have the honor to announce that, as a concrete measure, Japan aims to mobilize USD 3 billion from the public and private sectors over the next three years between 2020 and 2022, including through a total of USD 1.2 billion in overseas loans and investment for ASEAN by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

I believe this speaks amply to Japan’s policy of providing new economic options and working to achieve free and fair economic development throughout the ASEAN region.

Conclusion:Japan has the strength to form an international order based on free, fair and transparent rules

Today I have talked about Japan’s foreign policy in terms of “abiding by the rules,” “formulating new rules,” and “increasing options.”  And this is in fact the very essence of Japan’s vision of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”  The Indo-Pacific is the center of the world’s dynamism with half of world’s population living here.  It is, at the same time, where the balance of power is increasingly complex, with a number of emerging powers on the rise.  By now, I hope you have fully grasped that Japan is pursuing a consistent foreign policy from a long-term perspective in the Indo-Pacific in order to build “an international order based on free, fair and transparent rules.”

I cannot compare myself with President Sasae, who served as Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs for two years and as Ambassador to the United Sates for six, since I have been Foreign Minister for just a little less than three months.  Still, I do have the privilege of sparing no effort every day to advance “a world ruled by law, not by force,” by building upon Japan’s strong international presence that has steadily become more prominent under the long-running, stable administration of Prime Minister Abe.

At the G20 Aichi-Nagoya Foreign Ministers’ Meeting which I hosted last week concluding Japan’s presidency, I believe that Japan’s leadership in resolving global challenges and rules-making was enhanced, building on the “Osaka Track,” “G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment,” and various other outcomes of the G20 Osaka Summit.

On such a note of confidence, let me conclude my remarks by sharing my response to today’s theme: Is it possible to build an international order based on free, fair and transparent rules?  As the man in charge of Japan’s diplomacy, my answer to the question is an emphatic YES.

Thank you very much.