On February 9th, the East-West Center, along with co-sponsor the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA, and the office of Senator Mazie Hirono, launched the newest edition of the Japan Matters for America (JMA) publication, part of the Asia Matters for America initiative. Nearly 150 people gathered in the Dirksen Senate Building on Capitol Hill for the JMA launch, which was co-sponsored by 2 Republican and 10 Democratic members of Congress. Opening speakers included Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Rep. Mark Takai (D-HI and H.E. Kenichiro Sasae, Ambassador of Japan.
Representative Takano spoke of Japan and America’s strong bilateral relationship “for and with each other,” referencing President Obama’s remarks during Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Washington in April, 2015. Rep. Takano shared his personal history as a descendent of Japanese immigrants and expressed immense pride in the US-Japan relationship. The US-Japan “friendship will define the future of the world,” Rep. Takano concluded.
Senator Hirono, who was born in Fukushima, Japan, stressed the importance of the US-Japan alliance and friendship to maintain stability in the Asia-Pacific, a region of utmost importance. “No alliance could be more important than that between the US and Japan,” said the Senator. She cited recent events in the South China Sea and North Korea as sources of instability that the US and Japan must work together to resolve. Hirono affirmed her commitment to ensure the rebalance to Asia is more than rhetoric and that resources are used for the alliance. “We will go forward together.”
Representative Takai expressed his gratitude for the East-West Center in Hawai‘i and noted that Hawai‘i is the bridge between the US mainland and the Asia-Pacific region. Takai spoke of the late Senator Inouye, the first member of Congress from Hawai‘i who was a WWII hero and who set the standard for the US-Japan relationship. Takai applauded people-to-people exchanges such as the State Partnership Program with the National Guard, for bringing people from around the world to train together. “For seven decades we have had peace in the [Asia-Pacific] region because of programs like these. As we work together, we assure peace.”
Ambassador Sasae commended the JMA publication for its wealth of information. “Most things we believe we know, but this book reminds us of the facts,” he said. Amb. Sasae added, “The Japan-US alliance is in good shape, but you need the day-to-day work in the relationship, like between a husband and wife, otherwise you may take the relationship for granted.” He also expressed that we need to show how the relationship between the US and Japan is moving forward. Amb Sasae stressed the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which will not only benefit the US and Japan, but also the global economy. Lastly, the Ambassador outlined global challenges the US and Japan are cooperating to solve and said the “US and Japan can do more and we are willing to show it.”
After opening remarks, Kurt W. Tong, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS), Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the Department of State and Kanji Yamanouchi, Japanese Minister for Economic Affairs in the US, discussed the US-Japan relationship in a panel moderated by Dr. Satu Limaye, Director of the East-West Center in Washington, D.C.
PDAS Tong highlighted that historically the government-level dialogue has been aimed at fixing macroeconomic imbalances between Japan and the US. Those initial trade talks led to the designing and negotiating of the TPP, Tong said. Going forward, Tong noted three areas that the US and Japan could focus on to improve the bilateral relationship. First, Japan and the US should work together to shape global and regional policy such as development assistance. Second, the governments should support policy-related dialogues in the private sector. Third, the two countries should exchange more ideas to solve each other’s respective domestic challenges. This could involve developing a cadre of next generation experts who could help bridge the private and government sectors.
Minister Yamanouchi also touched on the “Trade Wars” era and said an outcome of those negotiations was to funnel Japanese private investment into the US. Now Japan is the 2nd largest investor after the UK, Yamanouchi explained, at a value of about $350 billion dollars. The TPP is a great undertaking and a symbol of US-Japan relations, said the Minister. The two countries work together in the G7, G20, and the UN, and new frontiers for US-Japan cooperation can contribute to the international community.
The latest Japan Matters for America, a bilingual English-Japanese publication, was funded by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and is an expanded and updated version of the original 2010 edition. Japan Matters for America functions as an educational resource and features infographics that illustrate the importance and impact of US-Japan relations at the national, state, and local level. The booklet can be accessed and downloaded online.
Japan is one of the US’s most important allies globally and in the Asia-Pacific region. Each US state exports almost $100 million in goods annually to Japan, and Japanese investment employs over 700,000 Americans across the country. The US and Japan economies rank 1st and 3rd, respectively. Japanese international exchange students contribute $600 million to the US economy, and the US and Japan share 441 sister city relationships, a reflection of the strength of people-to-people ties that are the foundation for the alliance.
Click here for more information on the launch program on the event webpage.