On-the-Record Briefing 15 November 1998

Speaker : Ms. Mikie Kiyoi
Title : Spokesperson for Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura
Date : 15 November 1998
Time : 19:23 to 19:43
Location : Cinta Alam #11/12, Level 3M, Mines IMC Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Attendants : Approximately 12
  1. Introduction of the Spokesperson
  2. Bilateral meetings of Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura
  3. The APEC Ministerial Meeting
  4. Japan-U.S. standoff on trade
  5. Statement of the foreign minister during the joint ministerial press conference
  6. Japan's motives for sending the EVSL to the WTO
  7. Japan-Malaysia bilateral meeting
  8. Japan's position on the situation in Iraq and an appropriate response
  9. Characterization of the outcome of the Ministerial Meeting

  1. Introduction of the Spokesperson

    Official of the International Press Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We would like to start an on-the-record press briefing by the Japanese delegation. The briefer is Ms. Mikie Kiyoi, Spokesperson for the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan. Ms. Kiyoi, please.

    Ms. Mikie Kiyoi, Spokesperson for Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you again for coming. I think all of you have already attended the joint press conference by all the ministers of the APEC member economies, so I appreciate all the more your attendance here, because the ministerial-level joint press conference is already over. Unfortunately, at the joint press conference, there were not so many questions addressed to the Japanese ministers. There was some reference to the country name of Japan in their questions, but the questions were not directly addressed to my ministers. Therefore I would be delighted to answer your questions, if you have any, regarding APEC.

  2. Bilateral meetings of Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura

    A: But before answering your questions, let me say something as to Minister Koumura's day here. He met Abdullah Bagawi, Foreign Minister of Malaysia, this morning, and afterwards he met Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State of the United States. Both meetings were arranged within the margins of the APEC sessions. With his counterpart from Malaysia, there were several bilateral issues, including APEC, because Malaysia is the host country of this year's APEC. Both ministers were pleased to find the good relations between Japan and Malaysia.

    As to Minister Koumura's meeting with his counterpart from the U.S., almost 98% of the discussions were spent on political issues or international affairs issues, including Iraq, North Korea and Russia -- as the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Obuchi, has completed his trip to Moscow just recently, and Russia is also a member economy of APEC. That's the general picture of these two bilateral meetings of today.

  3. The APEC Ministerial Meeting

    A: As to the outcome of the APEC Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Japan is pleased that all the ministers confirmed the urgency and the necessity for the Asian member economies to go back to the path of growth, achieving an early recovery from the financial crisis. As Japan has been advocating from the very beginning of this APEC Meeting, the most important element, particularly of this year's APEC Meeting, is to tackle this very urgently needed issue.

    In respect to trade and investment liberalization and facilitation and economic and technical cooperation, we are certainly happy to see progress. On top of that, there i some progress in new sectors, such as electronic commerce, so that is a very fruitful meeting. Regarding the EVSL, the Japanese delegation is pleased that our basic stance, that the EVSL should be implemented in accordance with the principles of voluntarism, has been respected, and that the EVSL will be sent to the WTO process. That is a good contribution to accelerating trade liberalization in a global manner, because the APEC discussions will be sent on to a more global body like the WTO.

    These are the statements which I wanted to make, so if there are any questions, I am happy to answer them.

  4. Japan-U.S. standoff on trade

    Q: This certainly appears to be a victory for Japan. How did you manage to get the U.S. to back down from its previously uncompromising position?

    A: I don't know. The mentality of the Japanese people -- my minister, Minister Koumura, is a trained lawyer, and I know that Madame Barshefsky is also a lawyer -- but for us Japanese, we do not tend to see things as "winning the case," an argument against and one in support. We do not see things in such a way. But what I want to say is, as I said at the beginning --

    Q: So sorry. You don't see it as a victory, then?

    A: Victory? "Victory" is not the word that we want to use, because, as I said, we are pleased that the principle of voluntarism is respected, coming back to the founding principle of APEC. The participating member economies reconfirmed this principle, and that is a good thing. But "victory" is not a word which Japanese people easily use.

  5. Statement of the foreign minister during the joint ministerial press conference

    Q: I didn't quite get the translation of what the minister said earlier. Can you enlighten me?

    A: Yes. It's better to translate it myself. "All of the member economies worked hard to achieve a beneficial outcome. In order to ensure that the results of this APEC Meeting in Kuala Lumpur grow and bear fruit, we look forward to the start of the WTO process. All of the Ministers have agreed on this point. In this way, the APEC Meeting of this year has contributed to stimulating global trade liberalization." That is his view as to the outcome of this APEC Meeting. Do you follow my translation? I am not a trained interpreter.

    Q: Yes. Thank you very much.

    Q: But he answered two questions, right? We also didn't have headphones.

    A: If my memory is correct, he answered just one. The headphones were not very effective, unfortunately.

  6. Japan's motives for sending the EVSL to the WTO

    Q: It has been suggested that Japan was keen to see the issue go to the WTO, because politically it would be easier to achieve those cuts in Japan if it was through the WTO rather than through APEC. I would like you to comment on that. Second, does Japan feel obliged if there is an agreement at the WTO to make tariff cuts there, or have you only agreed to the issue being referred to the WTO for negotiations?

    A: First of all, as Japan has been saying from the very beginning, the nature of APEC and the WTO is different. If we are to talk about trade issues with a view to reaching a binding agreement, the WTO is a far more appropriate body. APEC, as Japan has repeatedly advocated, is based on voluntarism. As to the forestry and fisheries sectors, the WTO process was agreed to start (if I may use the words of the text) "immediately." But before that, all countries participating in the WTO should discuss the agenda and the modality of the next round. Japan does not exclude these two sectors being talked about within the comprehensive framework of WTO negotiations. It is comprehensive; it should be comprehensive. So as Madame Barshefsky repeated, there are gains and losses once you talk about many things in a package in a comprehensive manner, so the forestry and fisheries sectors will be discussed in that spirit.

    Q: To clarify your answer to the last question, is it that Japan, along with the APEC countries, is going with a commitment to that package to the WTO, or is your commitment only that that package goes to the WTO for discussion?

    A: Oh, yes.

    Q: The latter?

    A: Yes, the latter one. My explanation here in this press briefing has always been clear: Japan is always ready to put these two sectors on the table of the WTO negotiations.

  7. Japan-Malaysia bilateral meeting

    Q: During the bilateral talks between the Japanese minister and his Malaysian counterpart and his U.S. counterpart, was there discussion on the Miyazawa Initiative? And especially with regard to this issue, what was the outcome of that?

    A: You want to know about the discussion about the Miyazawa Initiative? Your minister is very aware that that initiative was launched in early October, and the Malaysia Initiative needs some fact-finding technical reports about the needs of Malaysia for its implementation.

    Q: How soon will the technical experts' team arrive in Malaysia?

    A: What can I say but the sooner, the better?

  8. Japan's position on the situation in Iraq and an appropriate response

    Q: Just wondering about Japan's stance on the next moves towards Iraq. Actually, as you said, there were discussion on that with the U.S. counterpart. Any suggestions to them as to what should be done next?

    A: During the meeting between Minister Koumura and Secretary Albright, Madame Albright stated her well-known stance, the well-known stance of the U.S., which she reiterated at the joint press conference. In reply to that statement, Minister Koumura said that the diplomatic efforts should be completed. It is not always easy for the Government to persuade the Japanese people without seeking all diplomatic avenues. That is what my minister said.

    Q: Sorry? "It's not always easy for the Government to -- "

    A: Persuade the Japanese general public, which is quite pacifist, perhaps one of the most pacifist in the world.

    Q: Does that mean that what you mean is that diplomatic efforts are not being taken here? So more like what the Chinese foreign minister said, "Before you exhaust every other efforts, you should not resort to violence?"

    A: The Government has accountability to the people. That is why, when we support or object to some action to be taken by foreign countries, we will have to explain to our general public to justify our decision, whether positive or negative, to the action to be taken by other countries.

  9. Characterization of the outcome of the Ministerial Meeting

    Q: I'll just ask you one last question. You say that "victory" isn't the appropriate word. What is the appropriate word?

    A: We are happy to have this fruitful discussion. Thank you.

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