I want to extend a warm welcome to our friends visiting from Japan and thank everyone here in town for being with us at the State Department today.

It’s my honor to begin this important dialogue – a collaboration between public and private sector partners to create more opportunities in the infrastructure arena for American and Japanese businesses. There are many possibilities for us to work together.

I especially want to recognize Ambassador Aikawa, Director General Ishikawa, and the distinguished Japanese Delegation.

Yokoso! [Yokoso=Welcome!]

I want to offer special gratitude to our friends at BCIU and Jeff Donald for co-hosting this event, as well as to 3M, Autodesk, Bechtel, Catepillar, Citi, and McLarty Associates for sponsoring the roundtable discussion. We truly appreciate the many ways in which you have contributed to this event. To our private sector partners, we look forward to your very valuable input during today’s discussion. Your recommendations are indispensable to the success of this project.

If you were here a week or two ago—as some of you were—you would have seen the city awash in a sea of pink and white cherry blossoms. It is my favorite time of year in Washington, when even more people than usual from all over the country come here to the Nation’s Capital. Some of the last blooms are still lingering. Those trees—now a hallmark of Washington DC—were given to us by the Japanese in 1912 as a token of friendship.

Most Americans know that story, but many don’t know that we returned the gesture. In 2012, on the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift, the United States commemorated the event by giving the people of Japan a token of our friendship—3,000 flowering dogwoods trees, the first of which were planted in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park.

Just like the cherry blossoms and dogwoods, our friendship with Japan has continued to blossom. And we are very proud to have opportunities like this to reaffirm our continuing bonds, which are maintained at the highest levels. Just last week, President Trump hosted Prime Minister Abe in Florida—which happens to be my home state.

Their conversation centered around ways to expand our trade and investment relationship which would provide benefits on both sides of the Pacific.

We want to have similar conversations happening here today – focused on expanding relationships. American and Japanese firms face challenges and also have opportunities when doing business globally. This is especially true in the area of infrastructure. And by infrastructure, I mean the topics of many of the roundtables today – including energy, transportation, water and sanitation and telecommunications systems.

There are many regions in the world which would not only benefit from, but are in need of significant leaps forward on all of these fronts. New roads, bridges, power generators—all of these will change the global landscape for the better.

And American and Japanese companies are well positioned to deliver on advancing cities of tomorrow. The commonality of our firms is that we will do so in a responsible manner. During the roundtables today, we will have a chance to discuss our shared interests and values in promoting high quality, innovative, smart solutions – solutions no one is better at providing than are our private sector companies. And we will consider ways our public and private sectors can expand partnerships to better compete, especially against those who don’t abide by accepted international standards, norms, and rules.

We will also explore ways we can demonstrate to future customers that together we offer the best product and the best value in the long term. This is why our companies are already leaders in this field and we would like YOU, our private sectors, to continue to have opportunities to grow.

We will also discuss how we can effectively utilize the collective resources of our governments to address the needs of our businesses. Joint efforts can include things such as working to create a better enabling environment in target markets and gaps in third country infrastructure development capabilities. We want to provide platforms, including an effective, rather than burdensome regulatory framework, within which you operate. We also want to help solve the policy barriers you encounter when doing business abroad.

We will consider how we might collaborate in priority countries, and coordinate with interested multilateral organizations and the World Bank group and the Asian Development Bank to advance our shared priorities in the region. Such efforts could help open markets further and create new opportunities that support domestic jobs and meet global infrastructure development needs.

The diverse range of conversations today among public and private sector participants will enable us to deepen our understanding of one another’s interests and strengths and explore new partnerships.

Let us encourage a discussion that identifies concrete, actionable ways to expand these. That includes financing, business collaboration, third country capacity building, and policy cooperation. The goal is to provide our friends and neighbors in the Indo-Pacific with solutions that meet their social and economic development needs.

By combining the strength of our governments’ commitment and our unparalleled private sector expertise, American and Japanese firms are destined to succeed in improving access to critical needs for the global population.

As a final note, one of my priorities is to promote the economic empowerment of women, a goal I share with Prime Minister Abe. I encourage each of you in your discussions today to consider the inclusion of women in the infrastructure economy. Full participation of women will enhance many of the goals we’ve outlined for our roundtable today. What steps can we take to better partner to achieve this goal?

I look forward to hearing thoughts on this question and the many other important conversations you’ll be having today. And I also look forward to continuing this dialogue in furtherance of the goals we outline throughout the day. A final thank you to the many great people, including members of my EB team, who have worked hard to plan and execute this great event.

U.S. Department of State

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