Remarks at Japan Society of Northern California 2012 Annual Gala Dinner

Remarks as prepared for delivery at the Japan Society of Northern California 2012 Annual Gala Dinner on November 3, 2012, at the Parc 55 Wyndham Hotel in San Francisco.

Japan Society of Northern California 2012 Annual Gala Dinner Thank you, John, for that generous introduction.

As John mentioned, I moved back to the United States this past summer after 22 years in Tokyo. I am now based in Washington, D.C. as a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, a public policy think tank. But it’s always a pleasure to come home to San Francisco, which is my favorite American city.

I’m truly honored to be invited to address this annual dinner of the Japan Society of Northern California. This is because, in my humble opinion, this Society is one of the very best Japan Societies in the entire United States of America. It is also because the three senior statesmen who will be speaking tonight are individuals I sincerely respect and admire.

George Shultz was the Secretary of State when I joined the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), 27 years ago, in 1985, as Director for Japanese Affairs and worked for USTRs Bill Brock and Clayton Yeutter. Those were the days of the Ron-Yasu relationship between President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone. That period was also known for the George-Shintaro relationship, between Secretary Shultz and Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe. His son, Shinzo Abe, was prime minister of Japan from 2006 to 2007, was elected on September 26 of this year as the new president of the Liberal Democratic Party, and is expected by many to make a comeback as the next prime minister of Japan.

Mike Armacost became the United States Ambassador to Japan in 1989, my last year at USTR. I attended his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, where he uttered the famous words, “Mr. Chairman, you can be sure that I will be the First Commercial Officer of the U.S. Embassy in Japan.” True to his word, he warmly welcomed me to Tokyo when I moved there in June 1990 representing AT&T. His support for AT&T and my activities in Japan helped me eventually to be elected Vice President and President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, which at that time was the largest American Chamber outside the United States.

And Yotaro “Tony” Kobayashi, whom I’ve known for 30 years, is among the Japanese business leaders I most respect and appreciate. In addition to recommending me for memberships in numerous corporate boards and important organizations including Keizai Doyukai (the Japan Association of Corporate Executives), he has been a mentor to me in everything from golf and classical music to my professional career. So when the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan’s leading economic newspaper, asked me about 10 years ago to select one businessman to write about in its Koyusho column (a column about people who are of vital importance to the author), I chose without hesitation to write about Tony Kobayashi as my friend, mentor, and role model.

Tonight, I was requested by the Japan Society to provide “your formula (and prognosis) for Japan’s recovery from the triple disaster, the economic malaise, and the demographic time bomb”—all within 10 minutes!

This is clearly an impossible task. But I will, in my remaining 7 minutes, share with you an outline of my plan to address these thorny issues.

1. Create a Kobayashi Commission, chaired by Tony Kobayashi, that will produce within six months a report recommending a comprehensive vision for Japan’s 20-year future from 2013 to 2033. This report should follow the constructive tradition set in the past by the Okita Report, the Maekawa Report, and the Hiraiwa Report.

2. Create a Competitiveness Commission that will propose within six months concrete and actionable recommendations for Japan to enhance its global economic competitiveness.

3. Create a Population Commission that will propose concrete policies and incentives to increase quickly and significantly Japan’s birth rate.

4. Actively pursue participation in the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) negotiations to expand Japan’s potential markets abroad and to reform Japan’s domestic market, including agriculture.

5. Actively pursue FTAs (Free Trade Agreements), EPAs (Economic Partnership Agreements), and EIAs (Economic Integration Agreements) with the European Union, Canada, Australia, Korea, China, ASEAN, and other countries and regions to expand Japan’s global economic presence.

6. Actively promote the equal participation in the workplace by women, youth (people in their 20s), the elderly (people over the age of 65), and non-Japanese. Japan is seriously underutilizing this valuable pool of human talent.

7. Reform Japan’s immigration policy to allow Japan to tap the vast reservoir of human talent, both men and women, from around the world.

8. Reform Japan’s educational system, especially its higher education system, to be more open, competitive, and in tune with the realities of globalization.

9. Completely overhaul Japan’s English language education system to ensure that English can be used as a tool for critical thinking, logical analysis, discussion, debate, persuasion, and communication rather than as a sorting device for school entrance examinations.

10. Devise a public diplomacy strategy that will draw on elements of Japan’s soft power and deep cultural strengths to project Japan’s positive presence on the world stage.

11. Reform Japan’s electoral system to realize the principle of one person one vote prescribed by the Japanese Supreme Court.

12. Institute term limits to reduce political dynasties and ensure that entrenched officials do not clog the system and deter new aspiring candidates from running for political office.

13. Fundamentally reform Japan’s tax system to promote simplicity, fairness, efficiency, economic competitiveness, and eliminate the huge government deficit.

14. Strengthen the National Strategy Unit in the Prime Minister’s Office to coordinate and lead issues of national and international importance that cannot be left to the petty bureaucratic and jurisdictional rivalries of the central government agencies.

15. Create a National Security Commission to discuss and debate Japan’s national security policy and to issue recommendations on such issues as the right to collective self-defense, the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, the roles and missions of the Self-Defense Force, and the appropriate scale and presence of U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan.

16. Finally, as I recommended in my chapter in “Reimagining Japan,” devise a policy to encourage Japanese youth to study and work abroad as a way to develop their foreign language fluency, diversity management skills, crisis management ability, leadership skills, and global networks.

I have just about used up my allotted 10 minutes, so I will not be able to elaborate on these recommendations. But I believe that if this 16-point Fukushima Plan were implemented, it would go far to revitalize and reenergize Japan, enhance its presence on the world stage, and give Japan the recognition and credit it deserves for its valuable contributions to the world community.

It is now my privilege to introduce to you our next speaker, Ambassador Michael Armacost.

Mike is currently a Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University. From 1995 to 2002, he was President of the Brookings Institution. Mike served with great distinction as the United States Ambassador to Japan from 1989 to 1993, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 1984 to 1989, and Ambassador to the Philippines from 1982 to 1984.

He is the author of three books, including Friends or Rivals?, an insightful and highly regarded book that draws on his tenure as the United States Ambassador to Japan.

Among many honors, Mike has received the President’s Distinguished Service Award, the Defense Department’s Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, and, from the Japanese Government, the Order of the Rising Sun, Grand Cordon.

Ladies and gentlemen, please help me to welcome to the podium Ambassador Michael H. Armacost.

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