The connectivity agenda is essential to Asia’s economic growth: from the supply of high quality infrastructure to enable efficient production and transportation networks, to the dissemination of digital standards critical to information flows, services, and the burgeoning digital economy. While discussions on Asia’s connectivity agenda have focused on China’s growing influence through its Belt and Road Initiative and its plans for a Digital Silk Road, Japan has long played an important role in financing infrastructure projects in the region and has stepped up its economic diplomacy. In addition to its $200 billion Quality Infrastructure Initiative, Japan has established a cooperation mechanism with the United States and Australia to support private sector investment in regional infrastructure, while also agreeing to some collaboration with China on infrastructure projects in third countries. On the digital front, Japan has made data governance a centerpiece of its G20 chairmanship in 2019, and the recently enacted Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement includes rules that underpin the development of digital connectivity.
On February 11, the Center for East Asia Policy Studies hosted Kohei Toyoda, director for international coordination for the Trade Policy Bureau of the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, for a keynote address on Japan’s goals and policies to advance Asian connectivity. Following Mr. Toyoda’s remarks, a panel of experts examined how to balance competition and collaboration among great powers in supplying Asia’s connectivity infrastructure, how much traction Japan’s Quality Infrastructure Initiative has gained in the region, and limitations and opportunities for Japan-China business cooperation in third countries. They also addressed the prospect of a U.S.-Japan partnership on infrastructure and digital connectivity, as well as the challenges ahead for Japan to become a leader of digital connectivity. After the discussion, panelists questions from the audience.