• Kyodo

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As the U.S.-Japan Business Conference kicked off Thursday in Tokyo, Keidanren chief Hiromasa Yonekura called on domestic and American business leaders to reaffirm stronger bilateral ties and tackle issues troubling the global economy.

Speaking at the annual meeting, Yonekura, chairman of the country’s largest business lobby, voiced concern that China and other emerging economies, the major engines for worldwide growth, have begun to slow.

“I sincerely hope that this year’s conference will serve as an excellent opportunity for our two business communities to reaffirm the strength” of their partnership and discuss what both countries can do to address a host of challenges, said Yonekura, who is chairing the 49th annual conference with Aflac Japan Chairman Charles Lake through Friday.

In a speech at the event, Lake stressed the importance of the private sector at a time when Washington and Tokyo face severe fiscal difficulties, noting Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is still trying to secure funding for the fiscal 2012 budget while the Obama administration is attempting to overcome the so-called fiscal cliff in the United States.

“Given the monetary and fiscal constraints faced by our governments, indeed governments around the world, our economies will have to rely more and more on business expansion as a primary contributor to economic growth,” Lake said. “This brings us to the key theme of this year’s conference — restoring private-sector-led growth.”

Lake also pointed out that Washington is currently working to advance free-trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and called for Japan’s entry to ongoing negotiations on the regional initiative. “Participating countries will benefit from a freer and more open trading regime,” he said.

Japan has yet to announce whether it will join the TPP talks despite Noda’s strong desire to do so, because the country’s top farm lobby and influential lawmakers strongly oppose Japan’s involvement in the initiative.

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