The 15th Japan-EU Conference

Japan-EU Cooperation in a Changing World: Approaches to Rules and Standards

26th November 2012.


Remarks by Ambassador Shiojiri

President Herman Van Rompuy,
Distinguished guests and speakers,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour to be here with you today, especially in the presence of President Van Rompuy, to open the 15th Japan-EU Conference.

Since the President has already delivered an in depth and thought provoking speech, I would like to keep mine rather brief.

Japan and the EU are both facing formidable challenges. We are struggling to grow faster. We are struggling to create more jobs. We are struggling to cope with the uncertainty that confronts the international system. Japan and the EU are both striving to move forward and reach out for a better future so that we can live in prosperity, security and peace.

As both Japan and the EU work their way through to seize a better future, the two agreements which we are trying to start negotiation on and conclude hold critical importance. These agreements are the EPA, economic partnership agreement, and the political agreement. They are the two wheels of the same bicycle with which we should navigate through this challenging time.

Touching briefly upon the EPA, the task of securing economic growth and creating jobs are urgent issues which Japan and the EU both confronts. In order to better address the medium to long term issues such as the demographic shift triggered by the ageing of society and falling birth rate, we have to build a robust economy characterized by competitiveness, innovation and sustainability. The Japan-EU EPA is a vital tool to achieve this end. With this instrument, the EU and Japan will be able to jointly play an even more positive role in international rule making for trade, investment, protection of Intellectual property rights and other related economic activities. 

The second is the political agreement. Japan does not consider this agreement as a simple attachment to the EPA, and we rather consider this as an agreement that covers broad areas of cooperation that can cope with the new dynamism of the current international system. In the past, there was the 1991 joint declaration and the 10 year action plan that defined Japan-EU political cooperation. However, the world has changed rapidly and dramatically since those times. The EU has also evolved and grown significantly. We would like to seize this opportunity to conclude a legally binding agreement on the political and security cooperation.

The other day I attended a seminar on Anti-Piracy held by the Cyprus Presidency, to speak about Japan’s effort on anti-piracy of the coast of Somalia with the EU. It was once almost impossible to imagine that Japan’s self defence forces and an EU naval force could work hand in hand off the coast of Somalia. But today, this has become one of the examples what Japan and the EU can do to contribute to world peace and stability. I hope that the political agreement will enable us to strengthen this kind of cooperation with the CSDP and facilitate Japan’s participation in EU missions.

The political agreement will consolidate our cooperation over the past 20 years. Democracy, Rule of law and human rights, are some of the areas where we can further build on our expertise. The political agreement will also allow us to tackle new and upcoming issues such as cyber terrorism, space and disaster management  which by their nature are areas where Japan and the EU need to join efforts.

What Japan has learned after the March 11 Earthquake is not to give up when something unexpected happens. Rather, we learned to be fully prepared so that we can cope when the unexpected happens. Tsunami is not the only case. With the assumption that something unexpected may happen at any moment in the area of economy, politics or security, we always need to be ready.

We are now in a critical stage. In order to fulfil our responsibilities as global leaders, we should act with sense of urgency, with determination and with courage.

All Japan, all the EU, all industries and all citizens of Japan and the EU have to come together with new wisdom, so that we can reach higher. From this perspective, I am looking forward to the discussion of this conference.

Thank you.