As the Philippines chairs the ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting (AEM) and Related Meetings for this year, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez is determined to advance ASEAN’s objective to engage Japan on innovation and inclusivity of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), during the AEM Roadshow to Japan from 6 to 8 April 2017.

ASEAN economic ministers will also call on Japan’s top leaders and government officials in a consistent bid to strengthen bilateral relations between ASEAN and Japan. The AEM Roadshow will include site visits to some Japanese companies in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Wakayama.

“ASEAN is keen to engage with Japan on the theme of innovation and on how this can strengthen not only industries but MSMEs,” said Sec. Lopez, chair of AEM, whose domestic advocacy on developing MSMEs through innovation aligns with ASEAN’s intention.

The ASEAN delegation with ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh is set to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Minister Hiroshige Seko of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), as well as some public officials.

“Given Japan’s stature as one of ASEAN’s worthy trading partners and the continually growing trade between the two, we cannot stress enough the importance of this Roadshow in further strengthening relations between ASEAN and Japan,” he added.

The trade chief also noted that during the first Roadshow in 2016, ASEAN economic ministers were impressed at what they witnessed in the showcase of Japanese resilience and human resource development.

Likewise, the ASEAN Member States (AMS) gained a deeper understanding of the importance of regional efforts on disaster resiliency, according to him.

“Japan is regarded as a leader in innovation for the past 50 years and is home to widely-recognized companies. Economic ministers are eager to see this innovation at work in Japan not only to gain new perspectives to be applied in their respective countries, but also to better implement the AEM priority on inclusive, innovation-led growth towards shared prosperity for the region,” explained Sec. Lopez.

ASEAN will also discuss with the Japanese side ways to strengthen ASEAN-Japan economic relations, as well as the ongoing negotiations with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). ASEAN is confident that with the support of Japan, the negotiations on the basic RCEP parameters will be concluded within the year.