Professor, Faculty of Law, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization; International Law, Diplomatic Theory
First I would like to introduce myself. My name is Shuichiro Megata, joining the Chuo University Law Faculty as Professor starting this April.
I worked for Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoF) until November 2014. Looking back at my 40 years of service at the ministry, I spent the first half of my career exploring Japan’s diplomatic policy of its own during the Cold War. In the second half, my main themes were how to contribute to the international community amid progress in globalization and strengthen economic relations with foreign countries. In particular, over the last 14 years, I was mostly stationed overseas in China, France (Permanent Delegation to the OECD), Peru and Mexico. I would like to briefly introduce some of my memorable experiences in each of these positions.
I was posted to Beijing as Minister of Japanese Embassy in charge of economic affairs in September 2001 in the midst of problems with trade friction between Japan and China stemming from import restrictions on three agricultural products and exorbitant retaliatory measures by the Chinese side. At the end of that year, China joined the WTO and it was also a time when Chinese companies embarked on expansion overseas. It was immediately after the surprise visit to China of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi following his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. The next year, 2002, marked the 30th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China and was a period of transition from the Jiang Zemin regime to the Hu Jintao regime, a rough patch in the relationship when Prime Minister Koizumi visited again the Yasukuni Shrine. However, compared to the recent deterioration of Japan-China relations, the Senkaku Islands problem was not so harsh, and the presence of Japanese companies was growing in China.
In analyzing issues with China in the 21st century, I have witnessed first-hand China’s dynamism and egocentric mentality and the significance of the history card played against Japan. I think it was a valuable experience for me.
In September 2003, I was transferred and became Deputy Representative of the Permanent Delegation of Japan to the OECD in Paris, a post I held for three years and four months. My major endeavor in this period was to have served as the chairman of the subcommittee created in the Investment Committee of the OECD to compile a document entitled “Policy Framework for Investment”. This idea was proposed by the Japanese government, aiming at preparing guidelines to improve the investment environment in developing countries. The document was composed of a checklist and its reference materials for self-assessment by the developing countries under the recognition that promoting both domestic and foreign private investment was the most effective means for developing countries to attain economic independence. It took three years to compile this document, and even today, it is apparently used as a basic guide in the policy support by the OECD for non-member countries regarding investment promotion.
After serving the ministry as Director-General for Sub-Saharan African Affairs for a year, in February 2008 I was appointed ambassador to Peru, where I faced challenges in repairing the bilateral relationship deteriorated due to issues related to the request of extradition of former President Alberto Fujimori. The Peruvian side desired strongly to start negotiations for EPA: Economic Partnership Agreement.
But, the Japanese side insisted on the signing of an investment protection agreement as a top priority, on which I concentrated and fortunately an agreement was able to be signed less than eight months after the negotiations began, and we were able to proceed on the negotiations of economic partnership agreement. Also, at that time, the United States, Europe, and Japan were competing for selection of a digital TV standard for use in South America. As a result of our extensive support for the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, the Japanese standard was selected by Peru in April 2009. This ushered in successful opportunities for the Japanese standard to be adopted throughout South America except for Colombia. Negotiations for the economic partnership agreement faced obstacles, partially resulting from domestic conditions in Japan, but we were able to reach a substantial agreement at the APEC Summit in Yokohama in November 2010.
I learned several lessons from my experience in Peru. Some 50% of diplomacy is dealing with domestic issues, and in Latin America, which is characterized by top-down governance, contacts with Presidents and at the ministerial level are crucial. Also, the various anniversaries and commemorative events are extremely effective for promoting friendly relationships.
As my next destination was Mexico, my relationships with Latin America has been really deepened.
Mexico has been a historically friendly country, as it was the first country to sign a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation on equal terms with Japan, the first country to accept Japanese immigrants in Latin America, and after the war, Mexico supported the early signing and ratification of the San Francisco peace treaty and promoting UN membership for Japan. While I was briefed that there were no pending issues with Mexico before my departure, I had an impression that the country’s potential may not have been fully recognized and was underutilized in spite of abundant resources and investment opportunities in Mexico.
As a historical fact that supports the historical relationship between the two countries, in 1613–14, Date Masamune, aiming to forge direct trade with Mexico, dispatched the Hasekura Tsunenaga Mission. We planned a variety of events to commemorate “Japan and Mexico Year of Exchange” for the 400th anniversary of the Hasekura Mission in 2013–14. The President of Mexico visited Japan in April 2013. July 2014 saw the visit of the Prime Minister of Japan to Mexico for the first time since 10 years. In October 2014, the Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino paid an official visit. At the end of the month, 24 Japanese universities representatives attended the Japan Mexico Rectors Summit. Over this period, in the area of private-sector, new projects of plant construction by Mazda, Honda and Nissan were announced for Mexico. An investment boom centered around automobile-related companies ensued. More than 100 Japanese companies newly established in Mexico each year.
Through the experiences noted above, I have deepened my recognition that the relations of stable interdependence in international community have been extremely important for Japan. I believe the path to be followed by Japan is the one to make Japan’s national interests to match international public interests. The many highly motivated young people seeking to play international roles will bring more vitality for the nation. In particular, the United Nations and other international organizations are becoming increasingly important as globalization advances, but Japanese account for an extremely low share of human resources in these organizations compared to Japan’s financial contributions to them. Strengthening human resources in these areas has been strongly desired. Taking advantage of my experiences, despite my limited capacity, I would like to contribute to the development of such global human resources.