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Home Articles & Speeches Regional Vitality in the 21st Century - 34th PBEC International General Meeting
Regional Vitality in the 21st Century - 34th PBEC International General Meeting
34th PBEC International General Meeting
Tokyo, Japan
April 8, 2001

Your Imperial Highness, Excellencies, PBEC members and chairmen, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Tokyo for the 34th International General Meeting of the Pacific Basin Economic Council.

Each year as we gather for the IGM, it seems our region is always faced with an evolving set of opportunities and challenges - and a fresh set of issues to discuss and debate during our deliberations. In recent years we've grappled with challenges including the onset of the Asian Financial Crisis, disappointment in APEC, and the collapse of efforts to launch a new round of WTO negotiations.

As we convene this year's IGM here in Tokyo, all eyes are focused on the two largest economies of the region, and indeed the world - the United States and Japan. After years of almost unprecedented growth in the US, fed by technology driven productivity gains, the US finally shows signs of heading into a slowdown - if not an outright recession. Growth has slowed, some would say to a standstill, and the long running bull market seems to have turned into a bear. People don't feel as secure, and consumer confidence is starting to slip - a situation which could cause serious ripple effects far beyond the shores of the US.

A steep and sustained drop off in the US appetite for goods produced in Asia could significantly hobble the budding recoveries taking shape in so many economies in our region. The recovery remains precariously balanced - it can still go either way.

If the US locomotive is slowing down, it is more critical than ever to get Japan back on track. If BOTH the United States and Japan - for the first time in decades - enter into a serious economic slowdown at the same time, the impact on the entire Asia Pacific would be profound.

This Tokyo IGM will include some of the leading minds on the economic situation in Japan, so I will leave the analysis on Japan to the prominent speakers we'll hear from later in the program. We are hopeful that recent proposals will free up business and help restore strong growth. But suffice it to say, dark clouds on the horizon in the 2 largest economies in our region is something we all need to be concerned about.

Yet, as we survey the horizon at the onset of the IGM, we do see ample reason for optimism, we do see opportunities as much as we see challenges.

China - one of the region's other economic giants - continues to grow at a strong pace, while making good profress both in its efforts to move towards a market oriented economy, and in its bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), a move strongly supported by PBEC. With China in the chair for this year's APEC meetings, we are all looking towards China for leadership in reinvigorating the APEC process, and helping to rebuild the consensus for a new round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations.

While business can and must bear a strong responsibility for building a better world in our region, we cannot overstate the importance of strong and noble political leadership. Now more than ever, we need enlightened political leaders who seek office as a means to serve, not as a means for personal gain and aggrandizement. Our leaders must look after the needs of all segments of society, especially the most vulnerable. We must pay special care to our treasured older citizens - those who planted the seeds for the fruits we enjoy today. PBEC's strong activism on corporate responsibility and environmentalism shows our commitment to playing the groundwork for those who will follow us.

I am happy to report that our weekend deliberations here in Tokyo have been extremely productive. PBEC's various working committees have continued their good work and active agendas in areas such as e-business, food products, transparency, the environment, foreign direct investment, services, and technology. I want to say a special word of thanks and acknowledgement to all of you have participate in our working committees - you are the backbone of PBEC's policy activism. Earlier today, our board of directors passed a number of important policy statements, in areas such as the WTO, the environment, e-business and SMEs, financial services, and food safety.

Thank you very much, and I'm honored to be able to open this meeting officially. All of PBEC is extremely happy to be here. This is where we come each year to do the important policy work that we do but also strengthen the family ties among PBEC members. Ladies and gentlemen it is now time for me to welcome to the dais the Chairman of the Tokyo International General Meeting, Mr. Minoru Murofushi.