Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka departs Sept. 18 to attend a series of international financial meetings that will focus on the stability of Asian markets and the strength of the Japanese economy.

Given the turmoil in foreign exchange and capital markets throughout Southeast Asia over the past few months, it is only natural that financial stability in the region attract concern, one ministry official said. The minister’s agenda begins with a first-ever gathering of finance ministers within the framework of the Asia-Europe Meeting, which will be held Sept. 19 in Bangkok.

On Sept. 20, the finance ministers and central bankers of the Group of Seven — Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, Italy and the United States — will convene in Hong Kong for discussions on the global economy ahead of next week’s annual meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, also to be held in the former British colony. A bilateral meeting between Mitsuzuka and U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin is also expected to be held the same day, before the G-7 talks.

One top Finance Ministry official said he believes the issue of Japan’s lackluster economic performance would be better discussed with the U.S. than with the G-7. Several U.S. officials have begun to voice concern over the sluggish internal demand in Japan since the consumption tax was raised in April, indicating they are wary of the possibility of Japan trying to buoy its economy through exports as trade figures show Japan’s external surpluses rising. Some have indicated that Japan should consider decelerating its current fiscal reform timetable so there can be room for fiscal stimulus measures to prop up the economy. “But we do not intend to change our policy just because of economic performance figures for the three months (from April), and we intend to keep monitoring indexes for July onward,” the official said.

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