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Efforts to Enhance Prosperity in Japan and the International Community

The year 2008 was a year of turbulence in the global economy, with the first half experiencing dramatic rises in the prices of oil and food, particularly major grains, and the latter half marked by a deepening financial crisis triggered by the subprime loan problem in the United States and a global economic recession. The Japanese economy was also in difficult circumstances, with a rapid and ongoing economic deterioration.

In the face of the drastically changing global economy and increasingly complex and worsening global issues, Japan, holding the G8 presidency, hosted the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit in July, receiving high commendation internationally. Moreover, in response to the unprecedented financial crisis, said to be the worst of the century, at the Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy (held in Washington, DC) in November, Japan made concrete and significant contributions by sharing its experiences in overcoming its financial crisis in the 1990's and announcing its readiness to extend a loan of up to the equivalent of US$100 billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A concrete, action-oriented Declaration was agreed to at this summit, including a 47-point Action Plan on strengthening the financial system, with a review of the status of implementation of the principles and decisions scheduled to take place at the second Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy to be held in April 2009 (in London). Japan will develop active economic diplomacy in order to continue to lead efforts by the international community.

In the area of trade, in light of the worsening of the global economy, it is increasingly important to develop and strengthen the World Trade Organization (WTO) system, which promotes open international trade. The WTO Doha Round negotiations received support through political messages sent from both the aforementioned Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting also held in November (in Peru), and a revised negotiating text on agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) was issued in December. Although a ministerial conference scheduled in December was postponed due to differences in positions among relevant countries regarding major points under discussion, it is increasingly necessary to continue to hold intensive negotiations towards the early conclusion of Doha Round negotiations. Furthermore, to address the global rise in protectionism, a robust message to restrain this trend was sent out at the Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy and the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting. It remains necessary to monitor trends in protectionist measures with vigilence.

In order to complement the multilateral free trade system with the WTO at the core, Japan is actively promoting Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and developing rules not only in the liberalization of trade, but also in various fields such as the liberalization of investment and the movement of people. In 2008, EPAs with Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines, and ASEAN as a whole entered into force. Japan also signed EPAs with Viet Nam in December 2008 and with Switzerland in February 2009, while EPA negotiations are currently underway with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), India, and Australia. As for Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK), with which EPA negotiations have been suspended, working-level consultations were held twice to accelerate consideration of, and create a favorable environment for, the resumption of EPA negotiations. Japan is also actively participating in and contribute to studies and discussion concerning a framework for economic partnership in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.

Furthermore, within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which discusses cooperation towards the economic growth and stability of its member countries, Japan is working to tackle issues of responding to the financial crisis and promoting the liberalization of trade and investment.

The strengthening of economic security, such as ensuring energy and food supply, is another pillar of Japan's economic policy along with the promotion of free trade and investment. In 2008, extreme volatility in oil and food prices increased concern over energy and food security both within Japan and abroad. Against this backdrop, Japan is working to further strengthen relations with energy producing countries (such as through the producer-consumer dialogues in June and December) and cooperation with international organizations such as the International Energy Agency (IEA) with a view to ensuring stable supply and markets. In addtion, in order to strengthen the food security of both the world and itself, Japan developed its foreign policy at the head of state and government level through such opportunities as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) High-Level Conference on World Food Security in June and the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit in July.

Reinforcing the protection of intellectual property rights is now one of the pillars of Japan's economic foreign policy, and Japan is undertaking various efforts bilaterally and multilaterally to enhance the protection of intellectual property rights. These include taking a leading role in response to the proliferation of counterfeit and pirated goods, which is a threat to the sustainable growth of the world economy.

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