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Mutual Prosperity with the US

Japanese and US business leaders met in Tokyo for the 51st Japan-US Business Conference last week. We asked Kunio Ishihara, the chairman of the Japan-US Business Council, about the challenges the two countries face and their expectations for the future. Ishihara is a counselor at Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance and a longtime leader in Japanese business circles.

Ishihara said members of the Japanese business council and their US counterparts had vigorous discussions about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He said they all agreed that the two sides should work together to conclude their negotiations as soon as possible.

"I truly wish Japan and the US will lead all the countries taking part in the TPP negotiations. Previously, market access was the focus of talks. Now, Japan and the US need to take the reins in establishing trade rules in the Asia-Pacific region. I think each participant has their own values and regulations they would like to discuss. That will be the focus now, and Japan and the US need to lead these discussions.

Ishihara said both countries stressed the enormous potential for enhancing cooperation on energy policy. Japan has relied heavily on LNG imports since the March 11th disaster in 2011. For its part, the US is becoming an energy exporter thanks to the shale revolution.

"It's possible Japan and the US can have a win-win complementary relationship when it comes to energy policy. The shale revolution in the US has just begun, but already the council members had vital discussions on how the 2 countries can strengthen this revolution. Japan and US technologies are among the best in the world. Both parties talked about how they can cooperate in technology development."

The Japanese government is planning to lower the effective corporate tax rate down to the twenties in several years' time. The rate in Tokyo is now about 35 percent. Government and business leaders are discussing whether to cut the rate by more than 2.5 percentage points in fiscal 2015. Ishihara said a revival of the Japanese economy can't be achieved without tax cuts.

"Japan needs to be more globally competitive and increase investments from abroad. I think cutting the corporate tax is something that we, the Japanese business community, have long wished for. Of course, private companies should do more than seek help from the government. We need to work hard to promote economic growth and profit so that we can create more jobs."

Ishihara said Japanese and US business leaders have agreed to work together to achieve sustainable growth in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

"Japan and the US have a long and well-established relationship. If we can further develop this partnership, it will not only benefit the 2 countries but it can lead to prosperity and lasting growth throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Having said that, members at the meeting discussed our shared responsibilities to develop other parts of the world. I think our meeting was very productive and I hope we can expand our scope further."

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