Transportation Secretary Mineta Speaks at ACCJ

Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta
Remarks at the American Chamber of Commerce Japan
As prepared for delivery

April 11, 2005

Thank you for that kind introduction Debbie (Debbie Howard, ACCJ President). It is wonderful to be here today to speak in front of this group that's been working for almost sixty years to promote commerce between the U.S. and Japan. It is great to see old friends and to meet new friends. And it is a pleasure to be welcomed back so very warmly to the land of my heritage.

I have visited this beautiful country on several occasions in the past, but this is the first opportunity that I have had to travel to Japan as the United States Secretary of Transportation.

And it is a trip that I have very much looked forward to making. It brings together three of the things that are dearest to my heart: the country of my birth, the country of my ancestry, and the focus of my life's work - the transportation systems that bring greater prosperity to the people of both of our great Nations.

As you may know, my mother and father came to the United States from Shizuoka Prefecture. They worked hard and made many sacrifices to build a bright future for their children in their new home. And so, in a very personal sense, I feel that I honor my parents and their sacrifices with my return to Japan today as a representative of the President of the United States and the American people.

President Bush frequently refers to Japan as one of America's strongest allies - and calls Prime Minister Koizumi one of his closest friends. This morning, I had the opportunity to meet Minister Kitagawa of MLIT and his senior aids. Later this afternoon, I will have the privilege of meeting with Prime Minister Koizumi.

The friendship between the leaders of Japan and the United States is only the tip of a warm relationship whose foundation is very broad, and very deep. Our two Nations are bound together by a shared faith in democracy, a belief in justice, and a commitment to peaceful cooperation.

For more than a half-century, our friendship has been a bedrock of security in Asia. And it is proving itself in the face of other challenges as well - from fighting the spread of AIDS, to stopping the spread of terrorism and establishing a foothold of freedom and democracy in the Middle East.

America and Japan are allies today because we share many common values and a common vision of the future. Japan is the United States' pre-eminent historic trading partner in the Asia-Pacific region. And it is no coincidence that the world's two largest industrial economies are leaders in developing and applying the innovative technologies that today drive global growth.

This leadership is strengthened by the extensive cooperation between our two Nations in a wide variety of areas, at both the governmental and business level.

This is certainly true for transportation, where our cooperative activities are helping American and Japanese engineers design longer-lasting pavement, bridges that can withstand heavy winds, and rail tracks that can survive earthquakes.

We are cooperating in areas that are rich in their potential to transform our economies, and to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Our cooperation will speed the day when hydrogen fuels our transportation system. This bold vision of a hydrogen economy offers tremendous promise for both a healthier environment and reduced dependence on foreign oil.

Another exciting area of cooperation is intelligent transportation systems. Our automakers and our governments are working together on developing technology to deliver safer roads and safer cars.

On a global scale, an estimated 1.2 million people die on the world's roads every year, and more than 25 million others are injured. And rough estimates show that over 800,000 of those deaths occur in Asia.

Dr. Jeff Runge heads up the agency that is primarily responsible for traffic safety in the United States, and I am pleased that he is part of our delegation. The safety experts in his agency work very closely with their counterparts here in Japan on a variety of issues related to vehicle safety, both bilaterally and internationally.

And I would like to personally thank Japan for its partnership over the past year to advance international road safety - as part of World Health Day 2004 and the special session of the United Nations on Road Safety, and working with the APEC economies.

Our cooperation through APEC and globally has also been important in promoting transportation security in the post-9/11 world. Japan has been an invaluable partner in the war on terror and an invaluable ally in improving the security of the global transportation network. Your involvement in the container security initiative, for example, and your support of our aviation security efforts are warmly noted and greatly appreciated.

Japan and the United States also cooperate closely on a range of aviation safety and technology matters.

Together, we share responsibility for the flight information regions over the Pacific Ocean. And by ensuring interoperability of our satellite systems, we are in a position to significantly improve the region's air traffic control in the first decade of the 21st Century.

That cooperation extends to aviation manufacturing as well. Working with three Japanese heavy manufacturers - Fuji, Kawasaki, and Mitsubishi - next year Boeing will begin production of its new B787 Dreamliner, a midsize aircraft that is 20 percent more fuel efficient and has the capacity to fly between 7,800 and 8,300 nautical miles.

There is much work our industries are doing together, and much that the United States and Japan have to learn from one another. For example, President Bush is calling for significant reforms to America's passenger rail system.

As I travel around our country talking about President Bush's reform proposal, one of the skeptics' favorite charges is that there is no place in the world where passenger trains run at a profit. So I can hardly wait to return home and tell them about my trip on the JR Tokai, which will take me from Tokyo to Nagoya tomorrow.

On the Japanese Railways, the trains run full; they run on time, with near perfect precision; they are clean and modern, and they go where people want to travel - and yes, they are profitable. Japan has shown that there is a better way to run a railroad, and I am very much looking forward to learning more about your successful model.

There also are lessons we can learn from Japan's recent steps to privatize its toll roads. Lessons that will help guide us as we work to meet the growing challenge of attracting more capital to finance road construction to fight the growing challenge of traffic congestion.

As this broad overview suggests, the wide-ranging transportation relationship between the United States and Japan is important on both a bilateral and an international level.

And while by almost any measure, our relationship is one of the most amicable and cooperative in the world, there is one critical area that I would like to see us work on together, and that is market liberalization. This is true for both maritime and aviation services.

Under President Bush, the United States has been a leader worldwide in encouraging liberalization. In recent months, I have signed significant accords that include a maritime agreement and a landmark air services agreement that has substantially liberalized our relationship with China. And later this week, I will be traveling to India to sign a new Open Skies bilateral.

The world is changing, and countries across Asia are moving away from the notion that transportation industries should be tightly regulated and controlled by government. They are recognizing transportation as the essential conduit that it is for moving commerce, domestically and internationally. Where they do, travel and shipping become less costly and more widely available, to the benefit of consumers and the economy as a whole.

In this dynamic environment, business is flowing to - and through - those countries that afford private industry the maximum freedom and flexibility to structure their operations to best serve the needs of their customers. Those countries that are slow to adjust will increasingly find themselves bypassed or overflown.

As other countries in the Pacific region open their markets, I believe that it will become increasingly imperative for Japan to rethink whether transportation market restrictions are desirable - or even sustainable.

Certainly, the market restrictions that constrain the transportation companies of our two nations do not do justice to the strong overall relationship between our countries, to our robust trade relationship, or to the cooperation that we have in other aspects of transportation.

When she was in Japan last month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke of this being a time of great promise and renewal for the unique partnership between the United States and Japan. She noted that our two countries have "joined together as a Pacific community, turning a great ocean into a bridge, not a barrier, between nations." And she stressed that we have achieved much together because we have been open to new projects, new ideas and new partnerships.

It is my sincere hope that one of those partnerships will be in opening our transportation markets to help our two Nations facilitate the flow of trade, the exchange of technology, and the interaction of people who share so very much in common. And the result of our renewed partnership will not only benefit Japan and the United States, but will, in turn, lead to a more prosperous and more hopeful world.

Let me conclude by thanking each of you for taking the time to be here today, and for allowing me the opportunity to share these thoughts with you.