Table Speech


Major Issues to be Addressed by the U.S. Ambassador to Japan

April 11, 2018

H. E. Mr. William Hagerty
Ambassador of the United States of America to Japan


 Having been myself a Rotarian back in Tennessee, it is indeed an honor to be among you today who have done so much to strengthen the relations between the people of the United States and Japan. It is also my delight to find a fellow alumnus from Vanderbilt University, my alma mater, among members of the Tokyo RC. Today, I would like to share the three primary operating goals as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

 The first is to further strengthen the close security Alliance between the U.S. and Japan, which is the cornerstone of peace and freedom in the entire Asia-Pacific region. Together we face a number of challenges, including the global menace of North Korea. While it is commendable that sanctions imposed by the international community have finally brought North Korea to the negotiating table, the U.S. Government will further discuss our common strategy for engaging North Korea. Let me assure you that we stand fully with Japan in the face of this challenge. Our Alliance is ironclad, and the U.S. commitment to defend Japan is unwavering.

 Our second priority is to broaden our economic partnership to sustain a strong global economy, ensure financial stability, and create high-quality jobs. Together, we need to set high trade and investment standards, reduce market barriers, and enhance opportunities for economic growth in the Asia-Pacific. Japan has entered trade agreements with many of its trading partners, including 10 countries in the region and a free trade agreement with Europe. Let me emphasize that a robust trade relationship between the U.S. and Japan is essential and our main focus in moving forward.

 Our third goal is to deepen and expand our people-to-people bonds or “kizuna”. Here, RCs play an instrumental role. For generations, American and Japanese people have learned and lived in each other’s countries, leading to better understanding, respect, and admiration --- the hallmarks of true friendship. Exchange programs have turned an Alliance into a partnership, and a partnership into one of the most important friendships in the world. Unfortunately, however, the number of young Japanese studying in the U. S. keeps declining, after it peaked in 1997 with 46,000 students. Last year, the number dropped to less than 19,000. In order to be wise and successful stewards of the Alliance, it is critical that the next generation of leaders have the understanding that studying abroad provides. The Tokyo RC has been a dedicated caretaker of our vital relationship. The Rotary Youth Exchange program, Global Grant Scholarship, and the Peace Fellowship demonstrate Rotary’s long-term investment in the future of Japan. Your commitment has made a difference on both sides of the Pacific. We must stay true to our shared values that have brought peace and prosperity to so many. By working together, we can ensure that the future continues to be peaceful and prosperous for all.

※A special Question and Answer session followed the Speech and President Morita made a few questions on behalf of Tokyo RC.

Comments and Questions made by President Morita
 We were deeply impressed by your insightful speech that gave an overview of various issues including trade and diplomacy. Japan and the U.S. have strengthened friendly relations over many years underpinned by strong confidence. Yet in any foreign relations, there are some conflicts of interest. Against this backdrop, let me ask for your opinion on three issues. The first is on trade, including import tariffs imposed on steel and aluminum which is now a hot issue in Japan. What is your future prospect of U.S.-Japan relations in terms of trade? Secondly, the situation surrounding North Korea has been changing rapidly after the Pyeong Chang Olympics. With China in the picture now, I must say things are getting much more complicated. What are your thoughts? And lastly, please share your views and prospect of business management and economic transition in Japan, based on your three-year working experience in Tokyo in the 1980s when Japan enjoyed favorable economic conditions.

Responses by the Ambassador
 I must say Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act is currently the most topical discussion point on trade. The U.S. Government acted to save the U.S. steel and aluminum industry which had been devastated over the years by subsidized exports mainly from China. I understand Section 232 has put some pressure on relationships between our two countries. Going back a little further, the tension is also related to the TPP negotiation which has hit a stalemate. I believe we must accept the reality and seek ways to collaborate and move forward because our partnership is the most important in the world. I am optimistic that we can put our trade relationships in order.

 Now on North Korea, as we know Prime Minister Abe and President Trump have exerted strong leadership in placing maximum pressure on the North Korean regime and leading to the unanimous support to the sanctions at the United Nations Security Council. When we negotiate with North Korea, we must have all diplomatic options on the table, including military strength. The upcoming summit will focus on denuclearizing North Korea in a comprehensive, verifiable and permanent manner, making sure we learnt from the failures of the past. Whatever its outcome, I can assure you that the U.S. and Japan will always stand side by side.

 Lastly, on the economy, when I recall 1988 when I arrived in Japan, the economy was indeed booming. Things surely changed dramatically over the past few decades but now I can feel the economy is picking up and moving in the right direction. I am optimistic that our trade relationships can grow even further and we can yield innovation and prosperity if our two countries can increase capital flows and exchange more intellectual property. As our economy grows and as people’s optimism improves, I think there will be more innovative opportunities to exchange ideas, including more young people moving back and forth across the Pacific.