UTokyo Latin American Students Host Pacific Alliance Event
Date of activity: January 29, 2016
What is the Pacific Alliance and how can Japan be more involved in it? Over 50 students, professors, ambassadors and other professionals from a variety of countries came to the Hongo Campus on the afternoon of Friday, January 29th to discuss this topic at the "Pacific Alliance: Challenges and Opportunities for Japan" event organized by the UTokyo Latin American Students Association.
Following welcome remarks by Association representatives Orlando Vargas and Rodrigo de Reyes, Professor Masahiro Kawai of the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Public Policy, who moderated the event, gave a brief overview of the Pacific Alliance, a recently-formed trade alliance between the four Latin American countries of Peru, Chile, Mexico and Colombia. He said that knowledge in Japan about Central and South American countries is limited, and that many are not even aware of the existence of the Pacific Alliance. Professor Kawai stressed that as this event brought the four ambassadors of the Pacific Alliance countries together, it presented a "very rare opportunity" for deepening mutual understanding between Japan and the countries of Latin America.
Next, Ambassador Elard Escala of Peru delivered a presentation on the history, accomplishments and goals of the Pacific Alliance. He also mentioned that there are 42 countries observing the Pacific Alliance, including Japan, indicating worldwide interest in the trade bloc. Ambassador Escala then spoke about how the Pacific Alliance has been involved with Japan, outlining Japan's cooperation in the development of infrastructure in the Alliance countries, university exchanges between the Alliance countries and Japan, internship programs, and other such initiatives.
After Ambassador Escala's talk, he and Ambassador Patricio Torres of Chile, Ambassador Carlos Almada of Mexico and Chargé d'Affaires ad interim Alejandro Posada of Colombia took questions from the audience. When asked about why so many countries are interested in the Pacific Alliance, the ambassadors agreed that the unique state of the Latin American region, as well as these four countries' coordinated and coherent set of public policies, have led many other nations to express interest in how their trade alliance develops. As Chargé d'Affaires ad interim Posada put it, "we are in fashion right now." The four ambassadors also answered questions about the importance of human capital to the Alliance and its relationship with Japan, how to promote Latin American investment to risk-averse Japanese companies, and possibilities for mutual opportunities for enrichment between Japan and the Alliance countries in the social sciences and with regards to social inclusion.
Mr. Shinji Ayuha, advisor of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the director of the Industry Finance Group at the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), then discussed the current economic relationship between Japan and the four Alliance countries, as well as how important the Pacific Alliance could potentially become for Japan.
Next, Mr. Yasunori Mori, the general manager of the Overseas Department of Mitsui & Co.'s Corporate Strategy Division, explained how his company has had a long history in Japan spanning over several hundred years, and highlighted some of the current projects Mitsui & Co. is working on in the Pacific Alliance countries.
The last speaker was Dr. Akio Hosono, a senior research advisor at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Research Institute. Dr. Hosono spoke about the potential for synergy between the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) Japan has already signed with the four Alliance members, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Pacific Alliance and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). He also discussed the Japan Model of economic partnership.
After a brief question-and-answer session, Mr. de Reyes, one of the organizers, brought the presentation portion of the event to a close, saying that it was a very effective seminar in which a wide variety of opinions were expressed about the Pacific Alliance. "I hope we can work together for a better future," he concluded.
The speakers and the participants then discussed their thoughts concerning the Pacific Alliance while being treated to Chilean empanadas, Peruvian ceviche, Mexican tacos and Colombian patacones.
* This event was funded by the International Students and Researchers Support Group as part of the Second University of Tokyo Contest for Planning of International Exchange Events.
** Materials from the event can be downloaded here:
Program of the event
Profiles of the keynote speakers and commentators
The Pacific Alliance (Ambassador Elard Escala of Peru)
The Pacific Alliance and Japan ~Importance and Potentiality for Japan~ (Mr. Shinji Ayuha)
The Pacific Alliance - Contribution of the Japanese Private Sector - (Mr. Yasunori Mori)
The Pacific Alliance and Japan Model of Economic Partnership (Dr. Akio Hosono)
Food served at the event