Fifth Meeting of the Japan-France Dialogue Forum (Summary)

12 December 2000

The Japan-France Dialogue Forum was established in 1996 as an advisory organ to the leaders of both Japan and the French Republic, to provide a forum where intellectuals could freely discuss how to strengthen Japan-France relations on a wide range of issues, as well as a variety of global-scale problems and the kind of role both countries should fulfill, from a broad point of view. Since its inauguration in 1996, the forum has been held every year, alternating between France and Japan.

On 23 and 24 November 2000, the Fifth Japan-France Dialogue Forum was held at the Hotel New Otani in Tokyo, under the basic theme of "Toward Human Resource Development for Peace and Prosperity." A summary of the 5th Forum is given below.

On the second day of the Forum, Minister for Foreign Affairs Yohei Kono noted with gratitude that a variety of valuable suggestions had been made, including drafting "20 Actions for the 21st Century" (a basic political document for Japan-France cooperation created based upon the agreement between the leaders of the two countries). He explained also about the preparations currently underway to implement "10 years of Japan-Europe cooperation" at the dawning of the 21st century from 2001, as well as the importance of cooperation with France, the current President of the European Union (EU) and a country with a deep understanding of Japan.

1. List of Participants

Japanese Side

  • Chairman Yasuhiro Nakasone (Former Prime Minister of Japan, Member of the House of Representatives, Chairman of Institute for International Policy Studies)
  • Gaishi Hiraiwa, Adviser at Tokyo Electric Power Company
  • Yoshihiro Nakayama, Former Japanese Ambassador to the French Republic
  • Takashi Sugimura, Honorary Chair of the National Cancer Center, Japan
  • Jiro Ushio, Chairman of Ushio, Inc.
  • Ayako Sono, Author and Chair of the Nippon Foundation
  • Tadahiro Sekimoto, Chairman Emeritus at NEC Corporation
  • Moriyuki Motono, Former Japanese Ambassador to the French Republic and the Secretariat.

French Side

  • Chairman a.i. Christian Sautter, Former Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry, Economist
  • Gilbert Beaux, Efficate Financial Council
  • Jacques Weber, Adviser to the Bull Group, and Chairman of the French National Association for the Information Technology Industry
  • Jean-Francois Sabouret, Director of Research at the Japan Research Institute of the National Science Research Center
  • Francois Kourilsky, Honorary Director of the Gustave Roussy Institute
  • Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, French Ambassador to Japan and the Secretariat.

* Due to the fact that French Chair of the Dialogue Forum, former Prime Minister Raymond Barre, was unable to come to Japan for the meeting, former Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry Christian Sautter, who is a knowledgeable Japanologist, having published several books on the Japanese economy, served as Acting Chair for the meeting.

2. Summary of Issues Discussed

(1) Declining Birth Rates and Aging Society

a) The Japanese side noted that if the birth rate continued to decline at its current rate, in the next one hundred years the Japanese population would halve, leading to a reduction in the labor force and increasing costs for care of the elderly. It was explained that measures to tackle this situation are underway, through the creation of an Angel Plan, whereby the number of nursery schools and nursing hours will be increased, and the amount and duration of child allowances will also be improved. However, it was pointed out that an essential problem is the loss of traditional values accompanied by an outflow of people from rural communities to the cities, and the fact that the old morality has yet to be replaced by new values.

b) The French side expressed the following opinions: (i) Improved life expectancy depends on lower infant mortality and disease control based on science, but differences in region and social structure exist and there are people who cannot enjoy the benefits that the advance of medical science has brought; (ii) in France, the population is also aging, but increasingly there are many old people who are still healthy and do not require nursing; (iii) there are countries such as Ireland where the birth rate remains high due to its maintenance of tradition and custom, but in the United States and France, the increase in the birth rate is partially supported by the high birth rate of immigrant populations; (iv) incentives are important to curb the falling birth rate; (v) pregnancy at a later age is increasing, and more scientific research should be conducted on late child-bearing for women; (vi) as the birth rate declines, there is an increasing need to provide children with an advanced education and improve opportunities for their life; and (vii) it is of great importance to promote lifelong learning in adults prior to retirement, and to promote greater participation in society after retirement. Therefore it is important to institute revolutionary measures to change the concept of "old age." For example, this could be achieved through a more adequate tax system to this end, a variety of flexible retirement measures, a voluntary military service for those interested, mobilizing energetic elderly people who have the inclination to take care of the elderly who need nursing care, or to undertake the education of children, etc.

(2) Youth Education in Japan and France

a) The Japanese side explained that: (i) With increasing urbanization, the family is being increasingly disrupted, and that the morality and work ethic of young people is changing; (ii) higher education has been popularized in the post-war period, but now faces severe competition in the era of globalization, giving rise to debate on the necessity for an elite education for those people with the capability, while maintaining the general higher education; (iii) compared to the pre-war period, the status of the teaching profession is incredibly low, as described in Japanese "Demo-shika teachers" which means teachers who lack professional positions, who had no choice but to become a teacher, and it is therefore vital to introduce a teacher appraisal system (and to eliminate teachers who are not up to standard); and (iv) the current Fundamental Law of Education was compiled under the direction of Occupation Army immediately after the Second World War and although there are stipulations in the Law on such universal values as gender equality, the law makes no reference at all to the values of State, family, religion and culture, which has given rise to debate on the necessity for its fundamental revision or abolishment as some European countries do not have a comparable law. The Japanese side explained that it would be necessary to further discuss issues such as those mentioned above in the future.

b) The French side pointed out that: (i) in both Japan and France the trend towards atrocious violence and vicious crime among youth is progressing, and the age of the perpetrators is also declining (unease is spreading that many youths sympathize with those who have had a run-in with the law); (ii) in the background of (i), several factors exist: only limited number of persons can enjoy success in an intensifying competition through the spread of public education; despite repeated education reforms in both Japan and France, where many of those who enjoy success are from advantaged backgrounds; (iii) while elite education is important, there is a danger of excluding a whole range of people such as the disadvantaged, or those who have dropped out; (iv) in the United States the advanced education is increasingly considered to be a part of the service industry, while in France it is the public sector who plays an important role and adopts such policies and measures to provide more to disadvantaged children; (v) it is extremely important to introduce computers to all schools and pupils, in order for both countries to respond to education in the 21st century that is further popularized, extended and specialized, without creating new alienation; and (vi) in the interests of preserving and nurturing a critical spirit to serve as the foundation for individual creativity and individuality, an improvement in philosophical education is also necessary.

(3) Report on the Development of Japan-France Cooperation in "20 Actions for the 21st Century"

A report was made on the specific progress made in the various "20 Actions for the 21st Century," and both sides affirmed that they were delighted with results to date, which had been extremely satisfying. Results of the close cooperation between Japan and France were introduced, in each of the political, economic and cultural areas, and also in the area of exchange at the central and local level, in particular the improvement of human exchanges (through the initiation of a Working Holiday Visa System, and the success of the "la Maison de la culture du Japan a Paris," as well as in science and technology, and development cooperation areas.

(4) Borderless Education in an Information Society (Information Technology Working Group)

a) The Japanese Chair and the acting French Chair of the Information Technology (IT) Working Group, based on the year's work of the subgroups under its auspices, made presentations on: (i) language, (ii) the promotion of international remote education; and (iii) the "World Civility" and "Co-regulation." Concerning the presentation on language, a demonstration was given on an automatic translating system for Internet webpages into different languages (a total of ten languages, including Japanese and French).

b) The IT Working Group made the following suggestions to related organizations of both the Japanese and French governments.

1. Promotion of Automatic Translation

Request for governmental support to promote "automatic translation" to solve the language barrier
(1) Establishment of a joint team by Japan-France research institutes:
(France) The French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, private-sector companies (Systran, etc.)
(Japan) ATR Interpreting Telecommunications Research Laboratories, private-sector companies (NEC Corporation, etc.)

(2) Development of selected applications
Exchange between Japan and France on text and phonetic information (e.g.) Japanese and French libraries and science museums, etc.

(3) Development of a basic language technology
In particular, the development of a bilingual dictionary

2. Promotion of International Remote Education

Aim: To enable the access of high-quality lectures from every corner of the world.
To enable the common usage of teaching materials held by different universities throughout the world.
(1) Discussions with major remote education organizations in Japan and France
(France) Centre National d'Enseignement a Distance
(Japan) National Institute of Multimedia Education

(2) Establishment of an international education network
Through governmental support, connect existing education networks of each country and promote university exchanges. For the time being, establish an International Education Support Center, which would be responsible for planning and operation.

3. "World Civility" through the Internet

A new social order is necessary in information society, to be known as "World Civility." This would include both legal provisions and moral standards ("netiquette") and calls for the establishment of a "Joint Regulatory Forum" comprised of public and private sector to manage it. The following are especially important: the protection of personal information, the protection of contents, digital signatures and certification, consumer protection.

(5) Cooperation with Developing Countries (from the viewpoint of providing cooperation in human resources building through training, etc.)

a) The Japanese side stated that it was necessary to use all means, including the use of NGOs, in order to advance cooperation with developing countries in such areas as the global environment, energy and resources, infectious diseases and drugs. From the experience of cooperation at the Common Agenda Roundtable (CART) meeting held in Indonesia which supports the Japan-U.S. Common Agenda from the point of view of private industry, the following points were introduced: (i) Both environmental and public health information are very important, and afforestation has been implemented and latrines and water receptacles have been constructed; and (ii) it is expected that the next stage in development will be to tackle the rural electrification project in developing countries. Under this project, if a very small power station were able to supply just 100W of energy to each home, it would be possible to use a small 20W light bulb and an 80W satellite television in each and every home, thus enabling isolated rural communities to obtain information from all over the world. In addition, using this generated electric power, if it were also possible to establish a water pump and water system, living standards could be expected to further rise, and it was explained that projects such as these were extremely cost-effective. (While projects vary, the average cost to supply every home with 100W of energy is approximately $5,000.)

b) The French side pointed out that: (i) In relation to aid experiences in the Republic of Guatemala, a transportation network (roads) was assessed to be the most important local need, followed by education and public health, for which funding had been established and specific cooperation projects were being implemented with the cooperation of the Government of the Republic of Guatemala and international organizations; (ii) through similar means, a hospital had been built in the Republic of Madagascar, and Japanese facilities were being used in the hospital; (iii) it is necessary to monitor whether such cooperation initiated by the World Bank is attuned to local needs; (iv) with regard to Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs), debt relief will be implemented with a number of conditions, and in such cases it would be necessary to forge a clear path for these countries' reconstruction; and (v) the countries which Japan and France should cooperate to take action on should be designated, and in addition to the Republic of Madagascar and the Republic of Guatemala, newly independent states of former Soviet Union, such as Kazakhstan, as well as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, the Republic of Mali, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and Mongolia could be candidates for such extended cooperation. (Later during the meeting, many participants stated that in the future, Vietnam could be a particularly good candidate for cooperation between Japan and France, concerning measures to bridge the digital divide, for example.)

(6) Bioethics (human genome, genetic medicine, etc.)

a) The Japanese side explained that: (i) since the "10 Year Strategy Against Cancer" initiated under the Nakasone Administration, cooperation in the field of cancer research between Japan and France has been exemplary, and between the Pasteur Institute and the Gustave Roussy Institute, researcher exchanges, joint research and video conferencing are being actively conducted; (ii) with regard to life ethics, issues identified as far back in history as the time of Socrates still remain, but with the advance of molecular biology, and the unraveling of DNA and mapping of the human genome, new discussion on these new issues is necessary; (iii) it is thought that through gene analysis, diseases such as Alzheimer's and breast cancer could be detected from an early age, but in the absence of remedies, the issue arises of such people finding their insurance premiums rise, or that they feel it necessary to refrain from getting married; (iv) although human cloning has been prohibited, it is thought that it would be possible to use cultured stem cells for bone marrow transplants in treatments of leukemia, or for regenerating damaged brain tissue; and (v) the question of bioethics, like the issues of brain death and organ transplants, is greatly affected by history, culture and religion, and in Japan, the deeper the debate on this issue becomes, the more complex it is, and there is a deep concern that the creation of imbalanced strict regulations could hinder the progress of science and the welfare of the patient. The Japanese side stated that a sense of ethics which can catch up with the ever-advancing world of science is needed.

b) The French side pointed out that: (i) the development of cooperation between Japan and France in science and technology, including medical fields, is highly satisfactory, and that Japan and France should proceed with a complementary cooperation project that takes advantage of each sides' strong points (in the area of genetics, France has a strong base of basic research, whereas Japan has a wealth of the latest technologies); (ii) with regard to bioethics, Japan has been pursuing this issue actively, and France was pleased by the adoption in 1997 at the General Assembly of UNESCO of the "Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights," and it will be important in the future to heighten interest amongst the general public in this field through dialogue and exchange between Japan and France; (iii) in the last century, the advance of science was considered to be unquestionably a leap forward for the benefit of humankind, but in this century it has become clear that in areas such as nuclear power, and various environmental problems, and genetic research, science also begets some negative influences; (iv) in the past, in Europe, on the occasion of the introduction of new technology, policies have been bolstered by the use of reports from experts, or the decision in practice was commissioned to experts. However, a new method has evolved in Northern European countries over the last ten years, in which the role of experts has shifted to defining merits and demerits of a given policy option and presenting these results to the government, the diets, and civil society for discussions on risk control ('governance').

(7) Current International Situation

A free exchange of opinions was conducted on: (i) the future of European integration and prospects for France-Germany cooperation; (ii) the United States presidential election; (iii) the Japanese economy; (iv) the French economy (the 35-hour work week system); (v) the Middle East peace process; (vi) the issue of European security; (vii) the Asian situation (the People's Republic of China, the Korean Peninsula, Indonesia); (viii) the Asian economies (currency and finance); and (ix) the Russian Federation.

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