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Speech by Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen at Tokyo Institute of Technology on November 22, 2006 - Globalisation: The Danish way

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Dear Dr. Aizawa, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for the invitation to speak at your institute. It is a privilege to speak at one ofJapan’s leading universities.

The topic of my address today is Globalisation: The Danish Way

Globalisation has already had a huge impact on the way we live and we all have to prepare ourselves for new challenges. The globalisation process of the 21st century is changing the international society fundamentally.

But much more is to come. The free flow of people, commodities, ideas and information will enrich those societies and people, who are able to cope with it. And it will leave behind those societies, which are unable – or unwilling – to do so. Whether we are students or researchers, employers or employees or for that sake politicians we must all prepare ourselves for the new challenges and opportunities.

You cannot escape globalisation. But you can try to influence the way it evolves and seek to reap the benefits and meet the challenges it brings to you and your country. It does not matter so much if you are in Tokyo or in Copenhagen, in a big or a small country - the challenges are the same. If you meet them with scepticism and protectionism, you will lose.

In many ways Denmark is well prepared to meet globalisation. Denmark has had a long tradition of an open economy and, as it is the case for Japan, the Danish population is among the most positive towards globalisation.

For all countries, a strong private sector is of fundamental importance. In Denmark our private sector is characterised by being strong in many areas.

The commercial delegation accompanying me on this trip reflects some of those fields. That includes innovative food, life science and shipping.

Knowledge, innovation and quality are central factors for our competitiveness. Like Japan, we cannot compete on wages.

One of Denmark’s most valuable assets is the combination of a flexible labour market and social security. This has been shortened to flexicurity. Basically, flexicurity consists of three elements:

  1. A flexible labour market with easy access to both hiring and firing.
  2. A high level of social security.
  3. And an active labour market policy.

Generally, people are not afraid to change jobs, and the qualifications of the work force generally meet the demands of employers. In fact every year one third of the labour force starts in a new job.

And employers are not afraid to take on more people when necessary.

Flexicurity is a key factor to why Denmark today has one of the strongest economies in Europe. And take my advice - Denmark is a good place to invest.

The challenges of globalisation are many and demand of us to invent, create and think of new ways all the time.

I would like to cite an African proverb which in its own simple terms illustrates the conditions of globalisation. It goes like this:

Every morning a gazelle wakes up in Africa knowing it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up knowing it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.

The point is: It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle, when the sun comes up you better start running.

The 21st Century is often called the Asian century and Denmark will probably have to do more than just run to manage our way in the future.

We share some of the challenges which Japan is also facing. Our population is ageing and we need to keep focus on our competitiveness. Therefore, the Danish Government this year launched an ambitious strategy for Denmark in the global economy.

The strategy was prepared by a Globalisation Council which was set up in April 2005. And in line with the Danish tradition for dialogue and cooperation between different groups in society, the Council consisted of high level representatives from trade unions, industrial organisations, companies, and the education and research community. The Council also benefited from contributions from experts outside Denmark.

Earlier this year the government presented a comprehensive globalisation strategy aiming at:

  1. Making Denmark a leading knowledge society
  2. Ensuring world class education in Denmark
  3. Making Denmark a leading country of entrepreneurship, and
  4. Making Denmark a leading innovative country.

The globalisation strategy contains 350 specific initiatives which together entail extensive reforms of education and training, research and entrepreneurship as well as substantial improvements in the framework conditions for growth and innovation in all areas of society.

We will increase investment in research, development and innovation substantially.

We will increase the number of students at universities.

We will speed up the process of commercialising new scientific knowledge and ideas.

Denmark should be the world’s most competitive society by 2015. On a global scale Denmark ranks high on economic growth, competitiveness, productivity, etc. already today. My objective is to keep it this way and to ensure that we do even better. The aim is to maintain Denmark’s position as one of the world’s richest countries while maintaining the social fabric.

A central element in the strategy is increased participation in the labour market. Three factors are important in that regard.

  1. Later retirement
  2. Earlier finishing of studies
  3. Further inclusion of migrants in the labour force.

You might ask if further inclusion of women in the labour force is part of the approach.

The answer is that inclusion of women in the labour force has been a priority for many years and women are therefore already very active in the labour market. Our family policy including maternity leave and child care has been an important element in that regard.

The price of globalisation must not be a fragmented society. The Danish Model with its combination of competitive power and strong social cohesion should be maintained.

As you can hear, we are preparing Denmark for the future. Our international relations will also be of central importance for our success. Denmark has early on and in very concrete ways contributed to closer ties between Europe and Asia and to the globalisation of Japan. Let me mention that the company “Store Nordiske” made the first telegraph cable between Europe and Japan in 1871. Another example is that Scandinavian Airways in 1957 opened a new connection to Japan shortening the flight time from 50 to 32 hours from Europe to Japan. I am very happy that the travel time now is even shorter having travelled here personally.

Our ties are not only commercial. The EU-Japan Year 2005 showcased Japanese art and culture in Denmark, and many Danes had an excellent opportunity to be better acquainted with the many aspects of Japanese art and culture. “Danish Design” is in high esteem in Japan, not least thanks to high quality furniture.

In many fields Japan and Denmark can learn and get inspired from each other. Personally, I hope to bring back some good ideas from my visit, and I hope the Danish approach also brings you some inspiration. One thing we would certainly like to learn from Japan is how to better translate research to intellectual property rights and industry. In other terms, commercialising good ideas.

An important way of interacting and learning from each other is through student exchange. I am therefore very glad to know that there is a Danish student among you, who I am sure will bring back new and inspiring ideas.

Ideas are what come out of your university. Tokyotech is a living example of the innovation which both Japan and Denmark have to live from in the future. We need the ideas of students on how we best meet our globalised future. Let that be my challenge to you today.

Thank you