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New Year Message from Secretary General

Greetings for the New Year.

Since its establishment in 1981, the ASEAN-Japan Centre has been working to strengthen economic partnerships between the ASEAN Member States and Japan in trade, investment and tourism, as well as promoting exchanges of persons between ASEAN and Japan. In this May, the Centre is going to reach its 40th year anniversary. We would like to thank you all for your kind support and understanding throughout all these years.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the economy and our lives. Although the battle with this unknown virus still continues, the Centre will keep looking forward and making efforts to adapt to the changes while undergoing more digitalization of its activities.

Looking back on the past four decades, nowhere in the world has grown as dynamically as the ASEAN region. In the early 1980s when the Centre was established, the political and economic situation in the ASEAN region was still unstable, and it was not easy to gather information on the ASEAN Member States like it is today. In such time, the Centre began its journey to serve as a bridge between Japan and the ASEAN Member States to build “heart-to-heart” relationships and work hand in hand as equal partners. Back then, the GDP of the ten ASEAN Member States combined was one tenth of that of Japan. Now, it has expanded to more than half of Japan; and it is expected that it will surpass that of Japan within a decade.

On the other hand, there has been a series of calls at the international and regional levels for strengthening and rebuilding supply chains in the ASEAN region since the outbreak of COVID-19. In response to this, the Centre published a report utilizing the expertise accumulated for the studies on global value chains (GVCs) over the past few years. In the report, the Centre calculated the degree of risks of value chains to external shocks and identified which industries tend to be more vulnerable to risks (“Resilient Global Value Chains for ASEAN and its Relationship with Partner Countries: A way to Mitigate and Adapt to the Economic Impacts of Covid-19”, October 2020). For effectively dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and its economic aftermath, it is important for policymakers to resist the temptation of quick-fix solutions or protectionism and to maintain an overall favorable business climate. The Centre proposed to improve risk management, push strongly for digital transformation, promote new and crisis-resistant industries, and so on.

In terms of ASEAN-Japan relations, ASEAN and Japan agreed to further strengthen the partnership at the 23rd ASEAN-Japan Summit Meeting held in November 2020, by utilizing the existing cooperation framework including the Centre to promote the initiatives undertaken between ASEAN and Japan, and cooperate in the four areas outlined in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), namely maritime cooperation, connectivity, UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030, and economic and other possible areas. Specifically, the possible areas of cooperation included marine plastic debris, people to people connectivity, sustainable development including support for narrowing the development gap in ASEAN, digital economy and the 4th Industrial Revolution, strengthening economic resilience, and human capital development, all of which the Centre has been working on in its programmes. On the issue of marine plastic debris, the Centre has begun the project “Future Leaders’ Declaration on ASEAN-Japan Cooperation for International Marine Plastic Waste” (whose launch event is scheduled to be held in March 2021) and we are honored that the ASEAN Secretariat raised expectations for this project.

Although there may be more unexpected challenges in 2021, the Centre will continue to adapt to the changes like it always did in its history along with the development of the ASEAN-Japan relations. The Centre will continue to make efforts to contribute to new challenges of and furthering partnerships between ASEAN and Japan.

I extend my warmest greetings and best wishes to you all for your happiness, good health, and prosperity in 2021.

Masataka Fujita
Secretary General
ASEAN-Japan Centre