APEC Japan 2010 to begin with Senior Officials’ Meeting

by Keisuke Yoshihara, Staff Writer

In-depth discussions of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), which are scheduled to be held in Japan this year, will begin with the APEC Japan 2010 Senior Officials' Meeting I (SOM I) in Hiroshima on February 22 and 23. Related meetings will be held in the city through March 7, and about 1,000 people, including vice-ministerial-level and director-level officials from governments of 21 nations and regions, will gather in Hiroshima. This is the second time that APEC will converge in Japan, following APEC 1995. Japan will chair APEC in a year that marks a turning point for the forum with a variety of projects that have advanced within the region targeted to the year 2010. The Chugoku Shimbun will introduce the focus and significance of the discussions to be launched from the A-bombed city of Hiroshima.

Outline of APEC this year

The theme for APEC this year is "Change and Action," which represents the will to make 2010 a year to set the forum's future direction and take action.

Concretely speaking, the year 2010 is the time to assess the achievement of the "Bogor goals," which stipulate that developed nations and regions will aim to realize free and open trade and investment by 2010, while developing nations and regions are given until 2020.

In addition, the following subjects will be discussed at APEC 2010: 1) Promoting "regional economic integration," 2) devising a new "growth strategy," and 3) enhancing "human security," including anti-terrorism measures, food security and measures against infectious diseases.

Japan is the chair of APEC this year and the SOM I in Hiroshima will be the first forum for official discussion. In the run-up to the ministerial meetings and the Economic Leaders' Meeting, to be held in Yokohama in November, three more meetings of senior officials, as well as a finance ministers' meeting and a meeting of ministers responsible for trade, will be held in Japan.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are expected to take part in the Economic Leaders' Meeting, for which Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will serve as chair.

Meeting in Hiroshima

The SOM I will be held on February 22 and 23 at the Grand Prince Hotel Hiroshima in Minami Ward, Hiroshima. Shigeru Nakamura, Ambassador for International Economic Affairs, Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Hidehiko Nishiyama, Director-General for Trade Policy, Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, will serve as chairs.

Following the SOM I, meetings of committees and working groups on financial management, trade and investment will be held from February 23 to March 7 at the hotel and the International Conference Center Hiroshima in downtown Hiroshima.

The 2010 Japan APEC Preparatory Office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spoke about the significance of the meeting, stating, "The APEC meeting, which the three major economic powers of the United States, China, and Japan attend, has a great impact outside the APEC region as well. The SOM I is the first step of this important meeting."

Meeting preparations

Last November, Hiroshima Prefecture, Hiroshima City, the business community, and international exchange groups established the Association for the Support of the APEC Japan 2010 Senior Officials' Meeting I in Hiroshima in order to host the SOM I.

While the meeting is convened, 328 volunteers will offer hospitality to the participants by giving transportation guidance at stations and providing interpretation service through cellular phones.

Three main tours, to the destinations of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Miyajima Island, and rice wine cellars in the city of Higashi Hiroshima, will operate daily. Other tours visiting about 20 manufacturers in Hiroshima Prefecture, including a maker of water purification systems with the use of oyster shells and a maker of makeup brushes, are being organized as well.

Naoya Tamura, chief of the APEC Promotion Division, the City of Hiroshima, expressed his enthusiasm for the meeting, saying, "This international conference lasts for a long period of two weeks. We want to turn the conference into a good opportunity to introduce Hiroshima's efforts for peace, its accumulated technologies, and the appeal of Hiroshima as a sightseeing area with the two World Heritage sites of the Atomic Bomb Dome and Miyajima Island."

Interview with Takashi Hattori, Planning Officer at METI: World will learn about the horrific consequences of a nuclear weapon

The Chugoku Shimbun interviewed Takashi Hattori, planning officer for Trade, Finance and Financial Systems at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), about the significance of the SOM I in Hiroshima. Mr. Hattori worked for the APEC Secretariat in Singapore for three years from the end of 2005.

Why have the themes for discussion at this year's APEC been expanded beyond the economic arena?
After the war, Asian nations were leery of Japan. Japan's wish to display its ability in the field of economic cooperation and increase its presence in the region led to the establishment of APEC. So, the gate to APEC was the economy. But the nature of APEC has "deepened" since the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001.

The Economic Leaders' Meeting held in November of that year was the first international conference for nations to gather since the terrorist attacks and it issued an anti-terrorism statement. Afterwards, a variety of fields, including health issues, climate change, and measures against disasters, have been targeted for discussion at APEC. Now, APEC is the most important regional forum in the Asia-Pacific region.

What are the achievements of APEC to date?
It is highly significant that APEC has, to the world, demonstrated its intention to tackle issues as a whole region, including its release of the anti-terrorism statement.

APEC sometimes makes arrangements for the whole region and sometimes makes an attempt to improve a system in a specific nation. In the economic field, APEC has, for instance, reduced tariffs and liberalized trade and has been simplifying and facilitating the procedures for tariffs and distributions. APEC also made a checklist regarding regulatory reforms, which is now referred to by each nation.

What do you feel is the significance of starting the official discussion in Hiroshima?
This year is a decisive year in that the future vision of APEC will be determined. This is the most important APEC meeting in history, and will hold the greatest number of discussions. At the SOM I, vice-ministerial-level and director-level officials from each nation and region will create a tentative proposal for discussion. In short, the general direction of APEC 2010 will be shaped in Hiroshima.

I was first involved with APEC in the Vietnam meeting in 2006. As local people spoke to me enthusiastically, I could enjoy warm interactions with them. It was a very memorable experience. The meeting in Hiroshima will connect Hiroshima to the Asia-Pacific region. It is highly significant that important figures in political systems in 21 nations and regions will communicate with people in Hiroshima and learn about the calamity caused by a nuclear weapon.


Takashi Hattori Mr. Hattori was born in Mie Prefecture in 1967. He joined the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (now, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1991 and worked for the APEC Secretariat as a program director for three years from December 2005. He has written about the experience in his book "APEC no Sugao" ("Real APEC"), published by the Gentosha publishing company. He assumed his current post in July 2009.

(Originally published on February 19, 2010)