Yoshito Hori speaks about leadership lessons with enthusiasm in a suit and tie

One week before the day of the debate, I wrote the following announcement:

“GLOBIS will host the second in its series of the “Tokoton” debate at 7 p.m., Friday, November 4. Following the head-to-head public debate on energy issues between Softbank head Masayoshi Son and GLOBIS president Yoshito Hori,, participants in this second debate will engage in extensive discussions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with no time limit.

“Panelists including Soichiro Tahara, Nobuo Ikeda, and Satoru Matsubara will join in a vigorous exchange of opinions for or against the TPP at the Tokyo Campus of the Graduate School of Management, GLOBIS University. The debate is to be broadcast live on the Internet, and will also feature live audience participation.

“Those who support Japan’s participation in the TPP maintain the action is ‘necessary for protecting Japan’s national interests.’ Those who oppose the step argue that participation in the Partnership will ‘destroy agriculture in Japan’ and will create ‘more disadvantages than advantages.’ Participation in the TPP must be discussed exhaustively to guide Japan into a better direction, whether the country chooses to move forward toward participation or take steps in the opposite direction.

“Expected panelists include: 
Soichiro Tahara, journalist (moderator)
Nobuo Ikeda, president of Agora Inc.
Tetsuro Irohira, physician at Saku Central Hospital
Kotaro Tamura, senior fellow at Rand Corporation and former House of Councilors member
(scheduled to join the debate around 8 p.m.)
Shinji Hattori, visiting fellow at the Nippon Agricultural Research Institute
Kensaku Fukui, attorney at law in Japan and the state of New York, and visiting professor at the Nihon
University’s College of Art
Ukeru Magosaki, former director general of the intelligence and analysis bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Satoru Matsubara, professor at Toyo University’s Department of Economics
Yoshito Hori, President and Dean of the Graduate School of Management, GLOBIS University (MC)
Additional panelists to be confirmed

After the first “Tokoton” debate on energy issues I had with Mr. Son, I realized that it is possible to influence the public opinion. Perhaps it was just my wishful thinking, but I really felt that something started to change after that public debate on August 5. Having head-to-head discussions and standing up for what one truly believes in can move people. When all the points of contention are covered and all aspects are discussed thoroughly, we get a sense of clarity regardless of which side we take.

I felt that I should not end this debate as a one-off event. I thought that I should host a “Tokoton” debate whenever an issue arises that divides the public opinion in Japan. I created the first debate with Mr. Son, so I invited him to speak at the event and also obtained his permission to use the term “Tokoton” for the second debate.

The following summary is based on my live Twitter broadcasts of the debate:

I’m looking forward to the second “Tokoton” debate this evening. Though I used the word, a “decisive battle,” what we aim to present is not a quarrel. The important thing is to exhaust discussions and understand each other. Mr. Son and I ended our first debate shaking hands and hugging each other. That may be a little difficult to achive this time, but I’d be happy with a good discussion.

Following brief remarks by Assistant to the Prime Minister Akihisa Nagashima and myself, Soichiro Tahara opened the debate. The first speaker was Nobuo Ikeda. “Lowering tariffs is a good idea,” Ikeda maintained. “Doing so creates many advantages for consumers, too.” Shinji Hattori pointed out, “The TPP will be negotiated behind closed doors,” adding, “Japanese tariffs average 2.5% while U.S. tariffs average 3.3%. Eliminating them will create no advantage.”

Satoru Matsubara made the following three points. (1) He supports the idea of a free trade system. (2) The TPP is logically unsound. However illogical it may be, we can use it to advance our national interest by taking part in this Partnership. (3) Interim measures are necessary for the sugarcane industry on the Amami Islands. But do we need to protect the industry forever? To cite examples from the past, companies pulled out of the coal industry, and Nippon Steel Corporation and Idemitsu Kosan closed down their manufacturing plants in Kamaishi and Tokuyama, respectively.
“The TPP is not exactly ‘Pan-Pacific’. The participating nations total just 10,” observed Ukeru Magosaki. “China and South Korea are not taking part in the TPP. Exports to the United States are not increasing. The argument that 98.5% of the population is sacrificed to protect the prerogatives of 1.5% is a lie. The United States is demanding Japan to accept the introduction of medical treatment by combined bills (combining expenses covered and uncovered by health insurance) and commercial entry into medical services.” In the course of the discussions, Nobuo Ikeda tweeted as follows. (@ikedanob) “People against the TPP say exports are good and imports are bad, which is essentially the same as advocating ‘mercantilism.’ This is why the teachings of the economics are important.”

“It’s obvious that expanding exports will work to the advantage of consumers,” pointed out Ikeda. “Disadvantages that result from export declines can be remedied by income compensation. Such income compensation will be outweighed by benefits brought to Japan by the TPP. That’s obvious, too.”

Tahara’s moderation of the debate was sharp and subtle. I enjoyed listening to his comments much more than when he appears on TV.

Kotaro Tamura presented a dashing figure in his pink shirt. He looked like a superhero. “Nobody in the United States knows about the TPP,” informed Tamura. “It’s not too late to join the Partnership now. Singapore started the TPP with China representing a potential enemy. China is troubling Singapore by copying its intellectual property. Nothing has been decided as far as a framework for the TPP is concerned. I don’t understand why people are making such a big fuss about something that has not been decided yet.”

“If, as Mr. Magosaki says, the TPP process is a U.S. conspiracy, and if agricultural cooperatives in Japan collapse as a result, that alone can be credited as the Noda administration’s achievement that will go down in history,” stated Ikeda. “Is the current state of agriculture that good? Is Japanese agriculture worth being protected?”

“Agricultural income has declined by half in the past 10 years,” noted Matsubara. “This happened without any co-relation to arrangements like the TPP. Nothing can be better if Japanese agriculture gets revitalized by participation in the TPP.”

The exchanges between Ikeda and Hattori, who are sitting next to me, are heating up. I don’t mean to be impolite to them, but their furiousness is entertaining. (My live Twitter broadcast).

It was drawing close to 9 p.m., when Tahara had to leave for his other engagements. So I tweeted as follows:
“At the request of Mr. Tahara, we are going to stop the debate at 9 p.m. But we could continue the discussion if there are enough requests for it and if the other panelists agree to its extention. What do you want us to do?”

I was inundated with requests to extend the debate time, so I replaced Tahara as a stand-in moderator.

The panelists who took part in the second part of the debate were as follows:

Panelists in favor of the TPP:
Nobuo Ikeda, president of Agora Inc.
Kotaro Tamura, invited fellow at Rand Corporation
Ken Jimbo, associate professor at Keio University (who joined in the debate from 9pm)
Panelists opposed to the TPP:
Shinji Hattori, invited fellow at the Nippon Agricultural Research Institute (until 9:30 p.m.)
Ukeru Magosaki, former director general of the intelligence and analysis bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Tetsuro Irohira, physician at Saku Central Hospital
The focus of the panel for the first 30 minutes of the second part was on agriculture, and the latter part of the debate was mainly dedicated to diplomacy. As the previous debate on energy demonstrated, the point of having a “Tokoton” debate is not to produce a clear-cut result. The important thing is to give each and every person in attendance a chance to formulate his or her own opinion. The underlying purpose of this debate is to fully explore and discuss a given issue regardless of one’s standpoint.

The event turned out to be much more engaging and inspiring than I had anticipated. During the debate, a thought occurred to me that Japan could kill two, or even three birds with one stone – achieving competitiveness in agriculture, medical services, and intellectual property, while at the same time taking part in TPP negotiations. I think that agriculture and medical services in Japan face the risk of collapse unless we choose to join the negotiation table. It’s time for Japan to show its real strength.

Note: The archived videos of the second Tokoton debate is available on the GLOBIS.JP website (in Japanese only).
The Second Debate: the Trans Pacific Partnership GLOBIS.JP

I am planning to host the third “Tokoton” debate on the integrated tax and social security reform.

After making the following tweet, I spent the night on the town:

“Thank you for staying with us till the end. We are clearing up the venue now. I will go have drinks with my colleagues from GLOBIS. Having spent nervous weeks since the G1 GLOBAL Conference, I can finally feel a sense of relief.”

On that night, I had too much to drink that I felt under the weather the next morning. I caught a cold, and as a result, it took more than two weeks to write this column.

November 20, 2011
Written on a flight home from New Zealand based on my own tweets
Yoshito Hori

Get monthly Insights

Sign up for our newsletter! Privacy Policy