Japan's Foreign Policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean

Japan's understanding of the international situation and the core elements of its foreign policy

The age of the cold war between East and West has drawn to a close, but the international situation continues to be unsettled. Nonetheless, the international community's unceasing efforts to secure permanent peace and prosperity are beginning to meet with success. Progress is being made in resolving the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and the Middle East and also in defusing the nuclear problem in North Korea.
In this international setting Japan, recognizing that its own security and prosperity are dependent on peace and prosperity in the international community, is pursuing a foreign policy that is founded on partnership with the United States and that seeks to strengthen relations of friendship and cooperation with all parts of the world, including the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America, and Europe. In order to achieve a prosperous world economy and a pattern of sustainable development, Japan is stepping up its efforts to preserve and strengthen the system of multilateral free trade now being overseen by the World Trade Organization. As humankind moves toward the twenty-first century, it has encountered various global problems involving issues like food, population, environmental conservation, resources, energy, and drugs. These problems also occupy an important place in Japan's foreign policy and are being actively tackled.

The place of Latin America in Japan's foreign policy

These basic orientations in Japan's diplomacy have given form to its foreign policy on Latin America. Taking into consideration the new developments in the Latin American region, Japan is pursuing a policy of becoming increasingly active in assisting stability and development in close cooperation with the region's countries, and thereby contributing to the world's peace and prosperity.
Latin American countries went through a difficult period in what became known as the "lost decade" of the 1980s when they suffered from the trilemma of slow economic growth, galloping inflation, and accumulating debts. In the 1990s, though, we have observed a dynamic change in this region: Its countries have been energetically implementing measures to achieve democratization and economic reforms, and while pursuing realistic foreign policies based on international cooperation, they have been moving toward increased cooperation and integration within the region.
Practically all the countries in the Organization of American States (OAS) have achieved democratization, and efforts to ensure that democracy takes root are still going forward, as evidenced by the ongoing series of presidential elections since 1994. Meanwhile, the macroeconomic indices of Latin American countries are far healthier today than they were in the 1980s. The "tequila shock" touched off by the Mexican currency crisis at the end of 1994 has been basically overcome with help from international financial support and the retrenchment policies of Latin American governments, and the region's economies have entered a phase of recovery. In this setting of both political and economic stability, moves toward regional economic integration have recently been gaining momentum. An expanding volume of intraregional trade and the emergence of large markets are working together with the lure of Latin America's huge growth potential to attract the world's attention.

The basic orientation of Japan's foreign policy on Latin America

The basic policy targets Japan has set in its diplomacy toward Latin America are to secure long-term stability, to help democratic systems and market economies take root, and to strengthen international cooperative mechanisms. Toward this end, Japan extends support to the "two D's" -- Democracy and Development. That is, it provides aid to promote democratization in Latin America, and it cooperates in economic reforms aimed at building market economies. The conviction that has shaped this policy is that democracy and development are like the two wheels of a cart, that true peace and prosperity cannot be reached when only one wheel is turning.

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