Kuala Lumpur, 11 July 2011

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There are opportunities for a growing partnership, particularly between small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and Japanese businesses, and dialogue between the two are important in identifying areas of cooperation and opportunities.

“We had a very fruitful dialogue where we responded to the requests from Japanese private sector in the areas of, amongst others, trade facilitation, standard and conformance, and how to have small and medium enterprises more integrated in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC),” said Ms Mari Elka Pangestu.

As the Chair of ASEAN Economic Minister (AEM), she also met representatives from the Federation of Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FJCCIA), the Japanese Business Federation (Keidanren), and Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI).

“We need to look into a strategic view ahead in the next 10 years, to ensure that ASEAN and Japan ‘cooperate and collaborate’ to develop further, as Japan grows outside particularly in the areas of infrastructure development, connectivity, human resources development, and technical transfer,” she added.

The Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, said that this Forum is a “reality check” on the implementation of AEC Blueprint, to hear the feedback and issues on the ground from business people.

“This year reached a four-year cycle that the Japanese business community came up with issues which received very positive notes by Ministers in the two-way, future strategic view. The Dialogue will be held next year at its birthplace in Bangkok,” Dr Surin added.

Chairman of FJCCIA, Mr Takashi Hibi, shared three critical points for consideration at the Dialogue. First, infrastructure development – both soft infrastructure that includes intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and human resource development and hard infrastructure that covers road, railway, maritime, and air transport. Second, further reduction of import duty, removal of non-tariff barriers, and simplification of customs clearance and procedure. Third, the environmental and natural resources management.

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The Dialogue represent another ground breaking effort by ASEAN in engaging the private sectors – particularly the Japanese business sector, in enhancing economic progress towards the establishment of the AEC by 2015.

The meeting endorsed the development of a 10-year strategic vision for ASEAN and Japan development. The ASEAN Economic Ministers also agreed to conduct a Road Show to Japan, possibly in April or May next year, in the areas where the Minister would be able to link business and knowledge exchange between ASEAN and Japanese SMEs.

FJCCIA comprises 4,444 Japanese companies operating in 10 ASEAN Member States. Japan has been among the ASEAN’s top trading partners, with total two-way trade reaching US$ 214.8 billion last year. Likewise, Japan has always been the important source of foreign direct investments for ASEAN with a share of 7.4 % last year.