Subject: [cwj 41] Kyushu Okinawa Summit: Setting the agenda for the next 25 year
From: "Olivier Hoedeman" <>
Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2000 10:54:45 +0200
Seq: 41

Setting the agenda for the next 25 years: The IT revolution, food 
safety, and poverty are on the agenda for the G8 leaders meeting, 
say Michiyo Nakamoto and Gillian Tett 

Financial Times, Jun 23, 2000

At the recent state funeral for Keizo Obuchi, Japan's former Prime 
Minister who died in May, a giant, sandy coloured mound stood in 
the place where a shrine would normally be.

This, the funeral organisers explained to mourners, was meant to 
represent Mr Obuchi's dream of holding a successful G8 summit in 
the sandy, southern Japanese island resort of Okinawa.

Mr Obuchi's tragic death means that he missed witnessing his pet 
project by two months: the main G8 summit of world leaders is 
scheduled to be held in Okinawa in July 21-23.

But the inclusion of an Okinawan "shrine" at Mr Obuchi's funeral 
shows just how seriously Japan is now taking the G8 meeting. 
Japan desperately hopes that the summit will allow it to 
demonstrate its international diplomatic skills, after decades in 
which the country has appeared to be nervous about taking a 
leadership role on the world stage. The government also hopes that 
the summit will give a much needed boost to Japan's sense of 
national pride, which has been badly dented by a decade of 
recession, and growing political drift.

To achieve this, the Japanese government has created a lofty list of aims =
for the meetings, which are divided into three key parts: an initial gathe=
ring of finance ministers in Fukuoka on July 8; a meeting of foreign mini
sters in Miyazaki on July 12; and a gathering of world leaders on July 21 =
in Okinawa. Miyazaki and Fukuoka are both located on the large southern is=
land of Kyushu, while Okinawa is a small island further south.

The finance ministers meeting is expected to focus on the long running deb=
ate about international financial architecture, while the foreign minister=
s' meeting is likely to cover themes such as United Nations reform. Howev
er, the piece de resistance, as far as the Japanese are concerned, will be=
 the Okinawa gathering, which loftily aims to set the stage for world peac=
e, development and harmony "for the next 25 years." "The basic theme for 
the summit (should be) what we as the G8 must do in order to achieve great=
er prosperity, peace of mind and world stability in the 21st century," say=
s the government.

In practice, this means that Okinawa will touch on a medley of issues rang=
ing from genetically modified foods to Third World disease. But the theme =
that the Japanese are most keen to promote is how to handle the rapid glo
bal growth of information technology. While there is agreement that IT off=
ers tremendous potential, the basic principles and rules that should gover=
n IT businesses, and in particular e-commerce, need to be clarified and a
greed, the Japanese government argues.

Japan is also keen to win support from developing countries by discussing =
how the IT revolution will affect developing countries that are not curren=
tly riding on the digital wave. Growing cybercrime and the question of wh
ether or not it is necessary to create an institution to oversee IT and it=
s impact on society are also pressing issues.

This choice of an "IT" theme could prove to be distinctly canny. The US go=
vernment has already been urging the rest of the world

And in accordance with Japanese traditions of consensus-driven policy maki=
ng, Japan is trying to woo business and non-government organisations too. =
It plans to hold a meeting of IT "wise men" or leading IT businessmen bef
ore the summit to collect views and proudly points out that this is the fi=
rst time that a G8 has consulted the private sector.

But the big question for Japan now is whether these moves will 
actually produce a successful summit in Okinawa. For in spite of 
Japan's efforts there are still many risks to the meeting.

One problem is that Japan is involved in a bitter dispute with the 
US over the refusal of NTT, Japan's leading telecoms group, to cut 
its interconnection fees. G8 countries are also divided over policy 
to GM foods.

And another problem that could mar the talks is the long running 
failure of G8 partners to agree on the next round of the WTO talks: 
the EU had hoped to use Okinawa to launch another round but 
there is little sign that the US will back this.

Meanwhile, the biggest problem of all hanging over the summit is 
the loss of Mr Obuchi himself. For his death has left the ruling 
Liberal Democratic Party with a leadership vacuum. And Yoshiro 
Mori, his successor, is so unpopular that it is unclear whether he 
will even stay in his post until the Okinawa meeting. Japan plans to 
host an election for the Lower House of parliament this Sunday, 
and this may resolve some of these leadership problems. But the 
prospect of Japan stumbling towards a G8 meeting amid this 
political paralysis fills its own diplomats with dismay. "It is very 
difficult to plan when we do not know who is in charge. It does not 
show a good picture to the outside world," mutters one official. Mr 
Obuchi, in other words, hoped that the Okinawa summit would 
show Japan at its best. The risk now is that the meeting will end up 
highlighting parts of Japan at its worst.

Copyright =A9 The Financial Times Limited

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is 
distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior 
interest in receiving the included information for research and 
educational purposes.

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