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Launch of Japan - U.S. legislative exchange on high expectations from the Hon. U.S. Ambassador Kennedy

On February 18, a non-partisan U.S. Congressional study group led by Rep. Diana DeGette visited Japan and held a news conference to talk about promoting Japan - U.S. legislative exchange to reinforce channels of communication. This project is aimed at promoting legislative exchange between Japan and the United States with support from the SPF and in cooperation with the U.S. Congressional Study Group of Japan (CSGJ) under the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress (FMC, private organization). It is exploring to build individual ties between Japanese and U.S. legislative members beyond the boundary of titles and backgrounds. U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Hon. Caroline Kennedy joined the news conference and stressed the importance and value of legislative exchange. She commented on the importance and value of people-to-people exchanges, which lay the foundation of a strong, lasting bond between the two countries.

Why is it necessary to establish people-to-people exchanges now?

There have been numerous attempts of legislative exchange by a variety of organizations on various levels. One of the more notable ones was the active exchange of lawmakers led by the Hon. Motoo Shiina and the Hon. Bill Bradley in the 1980s. When bilateral issues between Japan and the U.S. came up, the two men exchanged opinions directly over the phone to swiftly address and avert crisis. This episode is still talked about as an example of what can be achieved from forming a frank, trusting bond. However, since the 1990s Japan and the United States have fewer and fewer occasions and avenues of exchange for smoothing bilateral relations, due partly to the protracted stagnation of the Japanese economy. This has also weakened connections on a personal level. Today, numerous factors including China's increased military presence have put a serious strain on security in the Asia Pacific region. With the importance of the Japan - U.S. alliance growing, we need a venue for periodic and direct exchange of opinions between the two countries' future leaders. This project has been launched in view of the given circumstances to further deepen legislative exchange and reinforce the bilateral relations between Japan and the United States.

Non-partisan action for building a wider and more robust channel of communication

Members participating from Japan include the Hon. Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Yoshimasa Hayashi, who serves as the co-leader of the group, the Hon. Akihisa Nagashima (House of Representatives), the Hon. Yoichi Miyazawa (House of Councillors), the Hon. Shinjiro Koizumi (House of Representatives) and the Hon. Ken Saito (House of Representatives), many with existing personal ties with the United States, i.e. through their studies in the United States. The group plans to invite more future leaders to join, with strong interest in legislative exchange with the United States, as well as solid experiences and achievements as a legislator.  The project is also attracting attention as a non-partisan initiative transcending the boundaries of party politics. Diplomacy is an area that requires consistency as a nation regardless of government changes. There are basic national policies that should be shared among Japanese leaders, notwithstanding their political affiliations. At the time of government changes, some leaders may create a problem by rejecting the policies of the previous administration. This project, which offers a venue for periodic exchange of opinions between the two countries' ruling parties as well as oppositions, is expected to become a valuable forum for protecting our national credibility.

Striving for quantitative exchange as well as qualitative improvement and continuous dialogs

One or two U.S. trips a year are planned in the future to not only exchange opinions with Members of U.S. Congress and Congressional staff, but also hold lecture sessions and seminars to actively communicate information. Covering issues ranging from security and military matters to energy, trade and innovation, this partnership will facilitate uninhibited exchange in line with concerns and hopes that only parliamentarians could share and appreciate. In response to the challenges of the coming generation, as a new avenue for addressing emerging issues and consolidating the U.S. - Japan partnership, this initiative promotes quantitative exchange and highlights the need for qualitative improvement and continuous dialog at the same time. Watch this space for the beginning of new exchange and the creation of a new legend.

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