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Latin America and the Caribbean


Overview of the Political and Economic Situation

 (1)  The Political and Economic Situation

In the series of presidential elections that were held in Latin America and the Caribbean region in recent years, new administrations have been founded under democratic processes. They are addressing the region's historical challenges of reducing poverty and alleviating the income gaps in society as major public policy issues.

Latin America and the Caribbean region have, with a population of 560 million, a regional GDP of 2.9 trillion US dollars (approximately 2.8 times that of ASEAN10), and economic growth for 2007 forecast to reach 5.6%. The region is gaining economic presence in the world and also becoming the focus of an increasing amount of attention as an area supplying natural resources and energy.

Regarding regional integration, the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), the Central American Integration System (SICA), and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), have strengthened steadily their integration, while new movement forward has been seen in the establishment of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the promotion by the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) on the initiative of Venezuela, and the foundation of the Bank of the South.

Furthermore, there was proactive movement to strengthen partnerships with countries, outside the region, such as through steps to conclude a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States.

 (2)  A Growing Presence in International Society

Brazil and Mexico have been serving as leaders of developing countries in fora such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization (WTO). At the same time, some small- and medium-sized countries have been undertaking notable activities, such as Costa Rica in promoting limitations on illegal transfers of small arms and Uruguay for its record of involvement in UN Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) activities. Moreover, countries of Latin America and the Caribbean region have great interest in the issues Japan is particularly actively engaged in, namely reform of the United Nations Security Council, human security, nuclear non-proliferation, and the environment and climate change.


Japan's Diplomacy towards Latin America and the Caribbean

Japan identifies the Latin American and Caribbean countries as partners that "share common benefits," as they are consolidating their democracy and market economies and thus achieving stable development. Japan intends to intensify its relations with the countries in the region, taking advantage of the mutual confidence traditionally built up by the grace of over 1.5 million Japanese descendants in the region as well as approximately 360 thousand people from Latin America and the Caribbean residing in Japan, in addition to historical exchanges of visits, trade and investment, and Japan's assistance to the region by means of Official Development Assistance. Japan pursues its diplomacy based on the three pillars of (i) strengthening economic relations; (ii) contributing to the stable development of the region; and (iii) cooperating in the international arena. Foreign Minister Aso delivered a policy speech on Japan's diplomacy towards Latin America and the Caribbean in July and visited Mexico and Brazil in August.

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