Masao Yoshida is the President and CEO of Astellas US LLC.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressed a Joint Session of Congress on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at the U.S. Capitol. It was a historic occasion, because he is the first Japanese prime minister to speak to a Joint Session. I was honored to attend as the invited guest of Representative Robert Dold of Illinois’ 10th District. Former Ambassadors to Japan Walter Mondale, Thomas Schieffer, and John Roos were in the audience, as was current Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, many visiting Japanese Diet members, business leaders, and stakeholders in the U.S.-Japan relationship.
The prime minister made the most of the occasion, emphasizing Japan’s commitment to a strengthened bilateral alliance, pointing out that the two countries have just completed a new set of cooperative defense guidelines, the first revision in 18 years. Prime Minister Abe also stressed that his government is not shying away from difficult structural reforms necessary to ensure sustained growth in Japan’s economy, for example agriculture, labor policy, and cumbersome regulations in the services sector.
Importantly for Astellas and other biopharmaceutical innovators, he voiced his strong support for a quick and successful conclusion to negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He highlighted the importance of securing strong intellectual property protection for innovation – saying “we simply can’t allow free riders on intellectual property” – as well as Japan’s desire to help solve the world’s toughest challenges, including infectious disease, climate change, and human rights.
Prime Minister Abe reflected on history, noting his deep remorse for Japan’s actions during World War II. At the same time, he focused on Japan’s deep and abiding support for peace and shared values with America. The chamber gave a thunderous standing ovation, one of many during the hour-long speech, when Prime Minister Abe introduced a U.S. veteran who fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima, Lt. General Lawrence Snowden. He was sitting next to a current member of Japan’s House of Representatives, MP Yoshitaka Shindo, the grandson of General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, Japan’s commanding general on Iwo Jima. The men rose, smiled broadly, and warmly shook hands. Two nations once at war, now the closest of friends.
At the close of his speech, Prime Minister Abe reminded the audience of Japan’s gratitude for all that Americans did to help following the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in 2011. He concluded by saying that for the world, and for Japan, the most powerful message from both the United States and Japan is hope. “Distinguished representatives of the citizens of the United States, let us call the U.S.-Japan alliance, an alliance of hope. Let the two of us, America and Japan, join our hands together and do our best to make the world a better, a much better, place to live. Alliance of hope…Together, we can make a difference,” he concluded.
It was my honor to represent Astellas at this remarkable event.
President and CEO
Astellas US LLC
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