Speech by Mr. Taro Aso, Foreign Minister of Japan at the Third Foreign Ministers Meeting of the Forum for East Asia-Latin America Cooperation
August 22, 2007
Thank you, Minister Amorim.
My thanks also to Brazil and the Republic of Korea, for their fine work as Regional Coordinators.
Distinguished colleagues, I am very pleased to be with you all.
On my way to this gathering, I was asking myself: what the FEALAC would be about.
The FEALAC, in my view, can well be the greatest ocean-connecting bridge, as it were.
Down the road, we can foresee that the FEALAC will bring us even closer together, that the Pacific Ocean will become rather like a pond.
It will be a busy highway, too, where goods run back and forth between the two sides.
Already, we have seen its first fruits.
Our two-way trade is now 3.5 times as big as it was in 1998, from 53 billion US dollars to 183.
The FEALAC, my friends, is therefore a great job creator, as well.
With the Dominican Republic now joining us, we will be even stronger.
I welcome the Dominican Republic on board.
However, I also thought that the early success of the FEALAC was actually a clarion call.
Because we have all woken up to the reality, jointly, we can achieve even more.
At present, Latin America accounts for 3% -- only 3% -- of the total amount of East Asia trade with the entire world.
Seen from Latin America, the corresponding figure is a mere 9.6%.
These figures are by no means the true reflection of our economies.
The FEALAC, my friends, must go a long way.
From this day on, let's keep it always in our minds that together, East Asia and Latin America can make the best possible combination.
Obviously, ours is a win-win relationship: technology-savvy, yet fuel-guzzling East Asia, and the growth-hungry Latin America that is extremely rich in natural resources.
To unleash our enormous potential, what I think is the key is to enhance our connectivity.
Only when well connected, will the FEALAC member nations form a single network.
And in a network, you benefit whenever someone else grows, the so-called "network externality".
Furthermore, a well connected FEALAC can be a growth engine for the entire world.
I say this because Latin American nations have had rich ties with Europe, and the FEALAC, my friends, could even bridge the two hemispheres.
Here, the role of the Central American nations matter.
Each one of them may be relatively small, but it is there the two oceans meet.
Their connectivity counts for all the rest of us, and when I say "us", I mean the entire world.
The canals connecting the two oceans, both wet and dry, must be made broader.
Any bottleneck, be it a port, a bridge, or a road, must be widened.
If we were to be successful in those attempts, the FEALAC could make an even greater network.
With that blue-print in mind, my government has done its fair share in working together with El Salvador and Honduras, among others.
A project to connect the two countries by building a new bridge is now underway.
The Japan-Central America Friendship Bridge, when complete, will be an important part of both the so-called Dry Canal and the Pan-American Highway.
In El Salvador, my government is also a proud supporter of the La Union port development.
My hope is that in widening the Panama Canal, Japanese companies can play roles they deserve.
For a similar reason, I must say that I am very much interested in the IIRSA, or the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America.
That will surely bring both East Asia and the inland part of South America ever closer together.
Now, my friends, regarding the FEALAC, let me give you my thoughts on what to be done next.
Number one, the FEALAC should evolve into a self-learning organisation to share the best practices.
As an example, let me take the way in which labour is divided in East Asia.
The division of labour in East Asia is neither horizontal nor vertical in the classic sense.
It is intra-company, and between stages of manufacturing processes.
You get components from a number of countries before assembling them to make a PC, for example, and that's the way you do it.
That can be a source of inspirations for Latin American companies.
My suggestion is that Institutions such as the ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) or the ESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) can be a great help for us.
I would like these organisations to get a roadmap prepared for the next ministerial meeting, and spell out areas where Latin America and East Asia ought to learn from one another.
Number two, we should see what we can do to enhance our most important connectivity.
The most vitally important connectivity is the one among the FEALAC business people.
My friends, let's go home and tell our people that they have partners to work with on the other side of the Pacific.
Face-to-face meetings are always important.
The FEALAC entrepreneurs should associate and interact more, together.
Maybe the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) or the ADB (Asian Development Bank) can tell us what we ought to do, as they are among the most experienced in involving the private sector.
Number three, we must care not only about ourselves, but beyond that about the world, and more importantly about mother nature.
Because the FEALAC is a powerful driver of the world economy, it bears grave responsibilities to give a strong push to WTO negotiations, as well as to the UN reforms.
The WTO Chair has recently published a guideline, and that is a good one for all of us to work with.
By the way, no UN reform is complete unless we can change the Security Council so that it better reflects the world reality.
Now, while standing on the soil of Brazil, I am always aware that we, in the FEALAC nations, all embrace mother nature.
We are now looking at the Post-Kyoto framework to address climate change.
To preserve our rainforests, to protect our clean water, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we must all be creative in coming up with ideas about how best we can address the danger.
I sincerely hope that the FEALAC will continue to be a good place for us to gather our knowledge and experiences.
As for Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a proposal that the world emission should be cut by 50%, from the current level, by the year 2050.
Named "Cool Earth 50", the initiative is designed to be effective in involving all, and with strong stress, major gas emitters.
I am sure that many of the developing nations will find the initiative worthy to pursue. But I know they must grow at the same time. Japanese proposal enables them to seek both ends. To help those countries strike a good balance between the two tasks, of course, my government is eager to extend assistance.
Finally, I assure you all that Japanese government will waste no time, together with Argentina as Regional Coordinators, to prepare the next Tokyo Ministerial prepared.
I can tell you that I have seen few other developments that are as encouraging as the FEALAC.
I promise you both Japan and Argentina will work hard to make the FEALAC even more successful, and bring it ever closer to the peoples of our great member nations.