Foley gives Japanese an economic pep talk

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Thomas S. Foley, former U.S. ambassador to Japan, warned Japanese on Thursday against being overly pessimistic about their economy, saying there is too much hype being made about China.

Speaking at the Boeing Leadership Summit in Tokyo, Foley said, “The confidence of the Japanese people that made it possible for the leaders of postwar Japan to achieve its great success is waning.”

He said it is wrong to think that China will overtake Japan as the world’s No. 2 economy in 10 to 15 years.

“Japan, in my view, will continue to be the second-largest economy in the world,” he said.

The symposium, titled “Security and Economic Challenge in a Time of Dramatic Global Change,” was sponsored by the aircraft maker to mark its 50th year in Japan.

Current U.S. Ambassador Howard H. Baker praised both President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for sharing ideas and for their commitment to the security of both countries. The bond between the two leaders is remarkable, he said.

Masahiro Akiyama, former vice minister of the Defense Agency, said that in terms of security Japan has shown leadership since the mid-1990s via the revision of the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guideline and the recent passage of war contingency bills through the Lower House.

Said Foley, “It is important for Japan to be able to make its own contribution in terms of collective security to the region (surrounding and near Japan) and to the international community as a whole.”

Yoshiyuki Kasai, president of JR Tokai, said the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States highlighted the importance of nations working together to protect their citizens and the importance of keeping their economies healthy toward that end.

He said that laissez-faire, global standards and deregulation cannot cure the economic wounds Japan has suffered and that the nation needs to instead redistribute resources to targeted areas.

On leadership in general, Philip M. Condit, chairman and chief executive officer of Boeing Co., said: “When you see the need to change, going slowly never provides the answer.”

Leaders need to have both a strategy that looks up to 40 years ahead and resources to execute the plan, he said.

Other participants of the symposium included Yukie Kudo, a journalist; Robert A. Feldman, chief economist at Morgan Stanley Japan; and Masamoto Yashiro, chairman and CEO of Shinsei Bank.