The UK-Japan 21 st Century Group held its 19th meeting from February 14 to 16 2003 in Kamakura, the feudal government of Japan in the 12th and 13th Centuries, under the joint Chairmanship of the Hon.Yasuhisa Shiozaki, member of the House of Representatives and Rt. Hon. Peter Mandelson MP.
Call on Prime Minister Koizumi
The Group was received by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at his official residence on Friday 14 February. Mr. Koizumi drew attention to the excellent state of relations between the two countries. Mr. Mandelson pointed to a speech by Prime Minister Blair in January 2003, in which Mr. Blair had emphasized that the UK was Japan's principal partner in Europe. There followed an exchange of views on issues of common interest to the two countries, notably the crisis over Iraq, the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, the regional and international implications of the rapid growth of China, and domestic political and economic developments in Britain and Japan.
The Prime Minister commended people to people exchanges in the building of an even stronger relationship. He was particularly pleased with the success of the JET program, which was brought many youths from the UK and other countries to Japan to assist language training and international activities in many localities throughout Japan. In this spirit, the UK private sector's participation in the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi was much to be desired.
In conclusion, Mr. Koizumi hoped that the Group would act as a catalyst for further cooperation and exchanges between the two countries in many fields. He looked for specific recommendations from the Kamakura meeting. One example of the Group's influence the Japanese Government's notification that day of its decision to grant special visa status to UK volunteers wishing to work in Japan, which followed a recommendation from last year by the Group.
The Meeting in Kamakura
Japan and the United Kingdom: Recent Developments
In the opening session in Kamakura to addressing domestic developments in UK and Japan, much attention was given to ways to bring about necessary structural reforms. The challenge was particularly urgent for Japan where economic recovery seems to hinge largely upon effective reform efforts. There was a lively discussion on whether the UK experience in earlier years was relevant to Japan's current situation or not, but it was generally felt that a more strategic approach with a clearer sense of priorities may be needed for Japan, as had been the case in the UK. Further exchanges between the policy advisors of the two Prime Ministers should be broadened and intensified.
Regional Economic Cooperation
Discussion was focused principally on the moves towards greater economic cooperation in Asia through the creation of Free Trade Areas (FTAs), and whether Japan might gain useful experience from the creation of the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the European Single Market (EMS). Both of the latter had been remarkably successful, belying the pessimistic predictions of analysts and commentators. It was acknowledged that the circumstances prevailing in Europe and Asia were different, but Europe had moved far and the collective experience of EMU, whatever its future political problems, and the Single Market might be of great value to Japanese policy-makers.
FTAs could do much for political economic and political stability and confidence in Asia, which was severely shaken by the financial crisis of 1997/1998. In the European case, economic integration was generated by a desire to underpin political stability, as well as to promote economic growth, but in Asia the current motivation for FTAs arose out of a desire to sustain economic growth. There were many other factors that acted as a catalyst for EMU. There were common factors in Asia, too, but they did not provide sufficient impetus for full economic integration, which requires a strong degree of political will to be fully successful.
There were plenty of problems associated with the creation of wide-ranging FTAs. Several bilateral and multilateral FTAs were agreed in Asia in recent years and there were proposals to promote an East Asian regional community building process (including the one included in Prime Minister Koizumi's speech in Singapore in January 2003). Progress was under way in negotiations of further FTAs between Japan and certain ASEAN countries and Korea. Agriculture always remained a stumbling block, but Japan seemed to accept that it should take effective measures in this sensitive area.
Several factors held back the regional community building process. Asian countries were not yet ready to face painful domestic economic and social adjustments involved in fuller economic integration. Morover, there was a much greater imbalance in the levels of economic, political, and social development among Asian nations. Japanese policymakers might learn a lot from those in Britain with direct experience of the immense effort that went into the creation of EMS and EMU, where similar constraints existed at the outset.
Both the UK and Japan had been developing a close working relationship with China to help it address the many problems arising out of its very rapid economic growth. Many of these issues had both regional and international implications. The UK and Japan might consider ways to combine their resources in working with China.
The Role of Science & Technology in Future Economic Growth
- Bearing in mind that Japan had followed closely the various stages in European economic integration, the Group should encourage further contacts on specific issues, such as, through seminars or visits to Japan by experts.
- The two governments should review their existing cooperation with China and consider ways in which they themselves, or NGOs and the private sector in each country, might combine resources to assist China with the major problems arising out of its rapid economic development, such as the protection of the environment, water resource management, etc.
Technological advance always have been and certainly will continue to be a major driver of economic growth. The IT and Internet revolution generated enormous change, but the Group was unanimous that we were on the threshold of even more impressive advances in a variety of fields, some of which were entirely new. The combination of disciplines, such as mathematics, physics, and chemistry have further enhanced the potential for technological breakthrough. The application of new technology in medicine and the sustainable development of less developed economies, in the alleviation of poverty, in particular,could have dramatic effects.
British and Japanese researchers lived in the shadow of their American counterparts, who were far more numerous and much better funded. In sheer numbers of researchers, expenditure and patents applied for and registered, Japan was slightly ahead of the UK. But the UK scored better in efficiency and productivity.
Both countries were making especial efforts to try to bridge the gap with the US. The Japanese were conducting a wide-ranging review of their whole education system. It was acknowledged that Japan's efforts in research suffered from an built-in distaste in Japanese society for the flexibility in attitudes and infrastructure that creates the right environment for successful research. British universities had suffered from similar rigidities in attitude, but were, perhaps, a step ahead in their elimination. On one matter there was unanimity: government intervention should be restricted to a minimum. Governments should create the right conditions and regulatory framework for research, and could be a partner in projects or schemes but not the leader.
The Bayh-Dole Act of 1982 was a landmark in stimulating research efforts in the US. The Japanese and UK governments should learn from this experience, although a similar legislation has been enacted in Japan. Universities should, however, be aware of the risks of concentrating too much on this area alone. Although British and Japanese have fallen far behind their US counterparts in technology transfer, they might challenge American pre-eminence by combining their resources in joint ventures.
Another fertile area of cooperation between the countries lay in the funding of research projects. British universities were fertile breeding grounds of new ideas, but the British system was weak in commercialisation and technology transfer and lacked both expertise and funding for this. Japanese corporations had an enviable reputation in this field. Collaboration between the two should be encouraged. Such collaboration should, of course, include Japanese universities. Individual research projects were often part of a whole; university partners could combine to expand the parameters.
The New Security Situation in East Asia
- The British and Japanese governments should formulate effective measures along the lines of the US Bayh-Dole Act.
- Through dialogue between universities, corporations, financial institutions, and governments, a fund or funds should be established, perhaps with government seed money, whose aim would be to encourage technology transfer.
The international community is unable to conclude whether North Korea is bluffing about its intention to reprocess its spent fuel or not.
Now that the issue of North Korea's recent withdrawal from the Non Proliferation Treaty and expulsion of the UN inspectors had been referred by the IAEA to the Security Council, Pyongyang was likely to proceed with reprocessing. This left the rest of the world with limited options, including the pursuit of diplomatic dialogue, surgical strikes to take out key sites, and accepting that military action would have consequences too dreadful to contemplate and therefore we have to live with North Korea as a nuclear state. North Korea was unlikely to accept US economic aid and abandon its tactic of raising the nuclear issue every time it felt threatened. Moreover, it might seek to use its bargaining power to demand the withdrawal of US forces from not only the Korean peninsula but also Japan.
The US/South Korea alliance was under strain. It was not impossible to contemplate that in the light of a US surgical strike against North Korea that the South might pursue reunification with the North and abandon the US alliance. Japan was concerned about such a scenario; it wished US troops to remain. The consequences of such a development might be an Asian nuclear domino effect, eg involving Taiwan.
In the light of this, Japan had recently adopted a somewhat tougher stance in the face of North Korea's escalation of the situation. Japan was urged not to exclude the diplomatic route to a solution. This had by no means been exhausted. The consequences of a tough and uncompromising line were so serious that even if diplomatic approaches seemed at first glance to be unpromising, they should be pursued.
There was scope for Japan and the UK to work together on this issue. The UK has diplomatic relations with North Korea; Japan does not. There was scope for cooperation between NGOs. Japanese are not allowed in, whereas British NGOs have some experience of working in the North. Britain and Japan might make joint efforts to encourage North Korean leaders to travel and discover that the non-nuclear option would bring far greater benefits to them than pursuing a hard line.
The Role of Universities in Civil Society
Universities have always played an important role in society, but in recent years this has begun to evolve rapidly, especially in the field of research in science and technology. With the increasing importance of new technology in the search for solutions to many of today's problems, research has become a much more important part of the university curriculum. This has been accompanied by other factors, such as globalisation and the greater mobility of students. Research itself has become more specific and the relationship between universities and business was much closer.
This gave rise to a number of conflicting issues, such as the balance between specific business funded research projects and pure research. There were no clearcut answers; universities had to strike a balance that suited their requirements and their funding capacity. But they were now entirely clear on the importance of their role in developing responses to the many problems of society, not least of all health. Another issue was the development of research in areas that raised social and ethical questions, such as stem cells. These were not a matter for the universities themselves, but for government in consultation with universities.
Research was expensive; universities could not possibly fund all the projects that were being asked to undertake. There were good reasons why governments should not be the sole source of such funding. There was a strong aversion to close government involvement in funding and setting targets. Technology transfer had become the most effective response to this problem. The number of such projects had increased substantially in the last few years.
Cooperation of the NGOs of UK and Japan in Addressing Global Challenges
- The Group should explore ways to facilitate exchanges of best practice in the two countries. We could learn a great deal from each other's strengths and weaknesses. Some areas were:
- the problems of officially directed research
- the risks of setting targets, eg in the field of technology transfer
- technology transfer and the scope for joint projects between universities
- the importance of graduate schools
- peer review and research assessment procedures
- the role and practice of business schools
- the role of centres of excellence
- the role of technology licensing offices (TLOs)
- the ownership of intellectual property
- how to face the low level of student and teacher exchanges between the UK and Japan
- e-learning and online learning
- Both sides were developing ideas in the field of public/private partnerships in higher education. Exchanges between the two sides, such as through seminars, exchanges of officials/academics, and joint publications were suggested as possible means of taking this forward.
One distinct international phenomenon in recent years is the critical roles of NGOs in addressing complex global issues. This trend has been accelerating as the nature of the new issues the world faces, as often characterized to be ����uman security issues,�ߡ�requires information gathering, experience, community empowerment, and capacity building. NGOs have a special expertise in responding to such new requirements, as they often forge effective partnerships with local NGOs that operate in communities facing such challenges and play a catalytic role in citizen participation. NGOs have also developed important roles in influencing government policies, mobilizing public support for new or alternative policies, and in informing the public of the new global challenges. In these roles, NGOs face the need to build a stronger constituency of support.
The UK has a long tradition of NGO participation in dealing with global issues, such as the promotion of sustainable development, the elimination of poverty, and responses to disasters and emergencies. Japan's emerging NGOs are often led by young men and women with a broader international outlook who share values with their foreign counterparts. Against this background, there are several areas where NGOs in UK and Japan can learn from each other and work together.
- One common agenda for NGOs in UK and Japan is how to develop effective partnerships and alliances domestically and internationally with governments, international organizations, corporations, other NGOs, and citizens. In the case of Japan, there is an urgent need to learn how to develop a more effective equal partnership with government. There is a tendency for this relationship to become hierarchical. In the UK, too, there is an ongoing debate on the evolution of the government-NGO relationship. UK experts on programme evaluation might come to Japan to help Japanese NGOs acquire their knowledge and expertise.
- Both governments and the respective private sectors should assist in funding such activities in order to maximize the contributions of both countries in responding to the global challenges set out in the report of the Human Security Commission jointly chaired by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, former head of UNHCR and Professor Amartya Sen, Trinity College, (Cambridge).
- UK-Japan 21 st Century Group has played a considerable role in enhancing understanding the role of NGOs in society and international cooperation, and it should continue to play such catalytic role.