ERINA was established in October of 1993, the year which followed the collapse of the former Soviet Union and subsequent end of the Cold War and saw many former Eastern bloc countries commence the shift from a socialist economy to a market economy. Even in Northeast Asia, where China was already pushing for a gradual transition to a “socialist market economy” under the policy of open reforms, Russia and Mongolia embarked on a radical market economy called “shock therapy.” Although the DPRK did not directly aim at a clear market economy, the idea of a possible North-South integration emerged on the Korean Peninsula, similar to the one witnessed previously between West and East Germany. Economic exchange between countries via open international trade and capital transactions had expanded, and it was anticipated that a regional “economic zone” would be formed. It was believed that the complementary relationship between economies within the zone, derived from the combination of natural resources from the Far East of Russia and Mongolia, the labor force of northeast China and the DPRK, in addition to Japan and the ROK’s capital and technology, would result in a win-win situation for all parties. In the context of these times, ERINA was founded on a grand vision of the formation and development of the Japan Sea Rim (Northeast Asia) Economic Zone, as a think-tank that promotes economic exchange between Japan and the region by conducting research and study on the economy of each nation within the region.
During these last 25 years, ERINA has been a base for research, economic exchange and the dissemination of information on the Northeast Asian economy and has consolidated its core foundation over time. Especially, its vast, domestic and international human network constructed through mutual exchange in international conferences and joint research is widely recognized, and ERINA is now a representative institution of Northeast Asian Economic Studies. Further recognition for ERINA has come in response to its extremely effective approach in analyzing the Northeast Asia region not only in terms of individual nations, specific fields and bilateral relationships between Japan and its northeast Asian neighbors, but also as a comprehensive, multilateral interdependence area, and the position of Northeast Asia in the global economy.
Since 2004, ERINA has released a medium-term plan spanning each five years to specify our activity aims and to enhance the effectiveness of our business. ERINA has acted upon the 1st Medium-term Plan 2004-2008, with its roles organized into “Information Center”, “Research Center” and “Economic Exchange Support Center”, and with the setting out of the three basic directions of “promotion of multilateral and multi-regional projects”, “research and policy proposals” and “interregional exchange and regional economic promotion”. Regarding this fundamental framework relating to ERINA’s purposes and tasks, the ERINA 2nd Medium-Term Plan 2009-2013 and 3rd Medium-Term Plan 2014-2018 have been continued and are currently being maintained.
However, in the meantime, the Northeast Asian region has changed significantly. First, Japan has fallen into a secular stagnation referred to as “The Lost 20 Years”, with the nation suffering from an accumulation of declining birthrate, aging population and government debt. Consequently, the revitalization of the local economy has become an ever-pressing issue. Secondly, China has achieved remarkable economic development in becoming the world’s second largest economic power, taking over Japan in 2010, has advanced the development of a wide-area economic zone initiative “One Belt One Road (B&R)”, and has enhanced its presence throughout Asia and the world. The third is that the ROK has labored on structural reforms since the financial crisis of 1997-98, with growth centered on its high-tech sector, but it now faces growing economic inequality, a declining birthrate and aging population. Fourth, Russia and Mongolia have experienced rapid growth on the back of rising resource prices, however, their economic instability resulting from resource dependence is somewhat conspicuous. Russia in addition, has faced economic sanctions imposed by the West over the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its intervention into the dispute of eastern Ukraine. The fifth is that the DPRK conducted nuclear tests and developed ballistic missiles, which first threatened the safety and peace of Northeast Asia in the late 2000s. However, following the historic DPRK-U.S. summit held in June 2018, a more positive outcome is expected. Sixth, the U.S.-China trade war that began in the same year under the watch of U.S. President Donald Trump has expanded into an intense competition for economic, technological, political and military supremacy, with its influences leading to further uncertainty in trade, the economies and political environment within Northeast Asia.
Though Northeast Asia is expected to experience ongoing steady growth and development, the above-mentioned changes in the area and beyond suggest a growing downward risk in the region. In China, for example, we see signs of financial instability, with income inequality, regional disparities and environmental issues becoming more consequential. As its trade and economic war with the U.S. intensifies, China faces the risk of a significant decline in growth rates. On the other hand, it has been pointed out that the construction of “One Belt One Road (B&R)” has aggravated the debt predicaments of other countries. Although military tensions between the DPRK and U.S. have eased, the two nations express markedly different perceptions over the issue of Denuclearization, therefore, one cannot completely rule out armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Furthermore, the discord between Russia and Western Europe and the U.S. may become aggravated should any further rise in tensions between the two sides occur.
On the flip side, the region faces upward growth opportunities at the same time. Assuming that China continues to move forward with structural reforms of the supply side to cope with domestic financial problems, environmental issues and disparity troubles, and to manage its trade war and battle for economic and high-tech supremacy with the U.S. in an international, cooperative manner, sustainable growth and development can be expected. Moreover, if the “One Belt One Road (B&R)” initiative can in fact enhance the economic benefits of participating countries, it will contribute significantly to the development of the Northeast Asia region. If the DPRK is to be denuclearized, and the necessary economic reform and opening routes are taken to join the regional economic cooperation of Northeast Asia as a member of the international community, the entire region will begin to move dynamically, and economic integration may progress significantly. Or, if Russia returns to a route of international collaboration and the economic cooperation between Russia and Japan is strengthened sufficiently, economic interdependence between Russia and Japan, China and the ROK may develop considerably. That in turn would potentially lead to a peace treaty between Russia and Japan and the return of the Northern Territories.
In this way, Northeast Asia is an area that has the capacity for both downward risk and upward opportunities, and in that sense, it is a tumultuous region. As ERINA, we shall strive to further deepen our activities as an international base for research, economic exchange and the dissemination of information in order to tackle the new challenges encountered in the Northeast Asian regional economy during this period of turbulence. In particular, ERINA will pay close attention to the changes in each country’s economy and interdependence which are brought about by environmental changes in the domestic and international surrounds of the Northeast Asian region, promote comprehensive economic analysis of the whole region as well as multilateral cooperation and regional cooperation, and enhance the function of effective information dissemination. At the same time, we shall strengthen cooperation and exchange with think-tanks, international organizations and universities in and outside of Northeast Asia. ERINA will further consolidate the role of our flagship annual event, Northeast Asia International Conference for Economic Development (NICE) in Niigata, moreover, we will contribute in various ways to draft policy proposals for central and local governments and international organizations of relevant nations related to the strategic direction that the Northeast Asian region should pursue. Aiming at organizational management in high public interest and efficiency, we will meet the expectations of numerous officials including sponsoring municipalities and supporting members.
Based on the above viewpoints, ERINA has outlined the basic directions of the 4th Medium-Term Plan 2019-2023. Organically linking our three core activities of research, economic exchange support and the dissemination of information, we strive to contribute to the peace, stability and prosperity of the Northeast Asian region; to strengthen our role as a bridge between Northeast Asian countries and Japan, and particularly its local communities; to deepen the inclusiveness and advancement of research on Northeast Asian economies; to connect our knowledge gained from economic exchange and field-oriented research with policy-making; to disseminate high-quality information effectively. And through all the above, as the world’s one-of-a-kind think-and-do-tank, with a target to strengthen its nature as a base in Japan and overseas, we have set this Medium-Term Plan.
Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia (ERINA)
Sustainable development and economic integration in the Northeast Asia region
Promotion of the local economy in Japan
Contribution to peace, stability and prosperity in the Northeast Asia region via research, economic exchange support, and the dissemination of information
From April 2019 to March 2024
【Overview of the 4th Medium-Term Plan 2019-2023】
We shall strengthen our central position base as a think-and-do-tank in Northeast Asia through the organic integration of three activities; research, economic-exchange support, and dissemination of information. We shall strive to develop international human resources and enhance intellectual infrastructure and expanded human networks via the strengthening of multilateral industrial-governmental-academia cooperation. Research will contribute to and expand the availability of resources for experts and policymakers. The provision of economic exchange support aims to promote local economies in Japan for local businesses, municipalities and the economic community. Sophistication of information dissemination function will be sought to benefit global and local communities. Evaluating the achievements of ERINA projects and the Medium-Term Plans, we shall pursue efficient organizational operations and high-public interest.
（1）Reinforce ERINA’s core function as a base for multilateral industry-government-academia cooperation
We shall contribute to the peace, stability and prosperity of the region as a base for promoting multilateral industrial-government-academia cooperation in Northeast Asia by leveraging the cooperative relationship between domestic and international public and private institutions cultivated through conventional activities. To this end:
（2）Organic integration of research, economic exchange support and the dissemination of information 
By organically integrating the three activities of research, economic exchange support and the dissemination of information, we shall utilize the strengths of ERINA and enhance its central function as a think-and-do-tank. To this end:
（3）Develop international human resources and enhance the intellectual infrastructure for research and economic exchange
We shall strive to foster international human resources and intellectual infrastructure to support economic development and economic exchange in Northeast Asia as it faces a tumultuous period.
（1）Deepen our comprehensive and advanced research of Northeast Asia
Deepen our comprehensive and advanced economic analysis across the region, focusing on the transformation of economies and interdependence of the Northeast Asian countries.
（2）Contribute to society through efficient research
In order to achieve maximum results under limited resources, we shall strive for efficient research by utilizing external human resources and external funds and return the results to society.
（3）Establish policy-making functions directed at each country’s governments (central and local) and international organizations
In tune with our position as a think-and-do-tank, we shall aim at contributing to policy-making in the Northeast Asia region as a research institution.
（1）Collect and provide high-quality information to promote economic exchange
We shall collect high-quality business-related information covering a wide range of fields and the latest economic and social trends in Northeast Asia and present them in a user-friendly format.
（2）Support the advancement of regional cooperation leveraged by association with sponsoring municipalities and private organizations
As a do-tank, we actively support exchange projects and events in Northeast Asia hosted by sponsoring municipalities and private organization to contribute to the promotion of regional exchange.
（3）Promote local economies through overseas expansion of private companies and local business exchange
As a do-tank in the Northeast Asia region, we shall endeavor to create business opportunities that are easy for each country’s private companies to enter into with each other and contribute to the promotion of local economy through support activities for business matching and overseas expansion of companies.
（1）Effective dissemination of collected information
We shall further enrich the dissemination of information via our publications, including the “ERINA REPORT (Plus)” and website, and effectively disseminate information to both local and international communities.
（2）Plan attractive international conferences, symposiums and seminars
In order to enhance the attractiveness of international conferences, symposiums and various seminars, we shall strive to enrich the contents deepening our cooperation among each division within ERINA and with external related organizations as well as constantly reviewing the objectives and roles of these events.
（3）Expansion and competent use of domestic and global human networks
We shall aim for the effective utilization of the human networks related to research and economic exchange in Japan and overseas via a process of thorough management and expansion.
（1）Ensure projects of efficiency and high public interest
We shall fully comply with the laws and regulations required of a public interest incorporated foundation and fulfill our sense of accountability. In addition, to achieve maximum results under limited resources, ERINA shall increase the efficiency of project implementation by focusing its activities on areas of need and potential.
（2）Create a system to support the education of international human resources and improve intellectual infrastructure and human networks
In addition to nurturing ERINA staff as international human resources, we shall endeavor to create a mechanism to improve human networks and intellectual infrastructure, our greatest assets, via research and study, international symposiums, seminars, and the results of economic exchange support.
（3）Implementation of effective evaluation systems for projects and personnel
Evaluating qualitatively and quantitatively the goals of projects and personnel in each fiscal year based on the Medium-Term Plan and their results and effects, we shall utilize them to formulate new projects and personnel plans.
 The “International Collaborative Research Center” was established in 2011 in ERINA with the aim of enhancing the World Only-One Research Institute in the Northeast Asian economic and social field. Since then, the entire ERINA activities have become an international collaborative research center, and in the 4th Medium-Term Plan, the center will be dissolved progressively.
 Launched in 2005, the “International Students’ Job Fair” is a business program unique to ERINA that provides international students in Niigata Prefecture with opportunities for interviews aimed at employment within local companies and is expected to contribute to the overseas development of companies.