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The G-7 Agenda in Japan: Revive Global Prosperity

The G-7 Ise-Shima Summit we are hosting on May 26-27 could not come at a more critical time for the G-7 nations, and for the world. In the year since the G-7 Summit in Schloss Elmau, Germany, the world has been swept by turbulent events. Globally, economic outlooks are volatile and have trended downward, while natural disasters, the worsening conflict in Syria, the plight of refugees and acts of terrorism in Europe have added to the instability.

The leaders of the G-7—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States—must set forth a clear vision to tackle these issues and outline steps that their own countries, and indeed the entire world, can take to counter the gloom and promote growth and stability. I note that we will be meeting on Kashikojima, or Island of Wisdom.

The G-7 members have an advantage in this undertaking: shared values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. The summit’s main focus will be on revitalizing the global economy, aiming to bring together monetary policies with accelerated structural reforms and flexible fiscal policies in a well-balanced, cooperative way. We also see opportunities to address challenges in key areas, including infrastructure, terrorism, global health and international maritime laws.

While we face many tough issues, we also find fresh buds of hope. First, we are seeing enormous infrastructure demand at the global level. Many developing economies could grow more with roads, ports, telecommunications and other infrastructure. Developed economies may focus on enhancements in quality, to repair outdated infrastructure as well as the introduction of more environmentally sustainable infrastructure.

On the supply side, increasing productivity is essential. We must begin laying the foundations of green growth and addressing the issue of graying populations—challenges that will be faced by more than developed countries. It will be critical to have investment-stimulating innovation on every front, including expanded use of information technology.

A commitment to raising productivity also requires us to find ways to provide all people with ample opportunities and incentives to work and participate in society, regardless of gender, age or whether one has any disability or not. In Japan, creating a society where women can shine is a cornerstone of my domestic policy, and I intend to make it a focus of the summit agenda as well.

Knitting together supply and demand factors in this way will lead to economic growth here and now—and will enhance growth prospects in years to come. The G-7 summit will be an ideal opportunity to restate a commitment to free trade. Japan will stand for urging the speedy entry into force and the expansion of participants of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, and the earliest possible agreement in principle this year regarding a Japan-European Union trade pact.

Free and fair competition should be encouraged in these agreements and beyond. I will urge the G-7 to discuss strategies to discourage nations from behavior that will result in supply-side overcapacity, thereby distorting trade. We must address the harmful dumping of steel, petroleum products and other commodities, as well as the unfair protection of domestic industries. The G-7 must also lead the fight against corruption and prevent tax avoidance and evasion.

But working to revive the global economy isn’t enough in a world destabilized by terrorism and violent extremism. Combating terrorism requires a greater focus on development assistance that eradicates the underlying causes of terrorism, including economic, social and educational deprivation. We must strengthen our support for the development of stable, tolerant societies, in the Middle East and globally. The summit this week will produce the “G-7 Action Plan on Counter-Terrorism and Violent Extremism.”

Global health is another critical factor to secure affluence both in developing and developed countries. I will urge the G-7 leaders to promote universal health coverage while combating public-health crises.

Ensuring freedom of navigation is both a prerequisite for economic growth and a precondition for stability and peace. Regrettably, not every nation recognizes this, and we are seeing unilateral actions being taken that undermine the rule of law in the sea, change the status quo and escalate international tensions. Building on the G-7 Foreign Ministers’ Statement on Maritime Security adopted in Hiroshima in April, I will urge the G-7 leaders this week to state clearly their support for maintaining free and open seas.

The G-7 nations have been the drivers of world peace and prosperity not just because of the size of their economies, but also because of their shared values. At this challenging time, I am honored to chair the G-7 and have the opportunity to guide our discussions, and will work closely with my colleagues and others to set the world on a trajectory for greater prosperity.

Shinzo Abe