British Council Japan Association: Digest of speech on 18 November 2010
The Ambassador spoke about the breadth of bilateral relations between the United Kingdom and Japan. He said that he was privileged to be Ambassador in a country with which the United Kingdom had a strong and virtually problem free relationship. Trade and investment links remained very close, with over 1200 Japanese companies investing in the United Kingdom, employing over 100,000 people, and many British companies exporting successfully to Japan, although the level of foreign direct investment in Japan was much lower than that in the UK. The City of London was also a very important financial centre for Japanese companies. The Embassy were busy promoting closer partnerships in other fields as well, particularly those of science and innovation, the broad range of cultural contacts promoted by the British Council, and increasingly close links in the field of education, with universities entering long-term partnership arrangements between the UK and Japan.
The Ambassador also explained a little of the work of the Embassy in promoting the relationship between the British and Japanese Governments. This covered the major areas of foreign policy, on most of which Britain and Japan thought along very similar lines, for example the importance of Iran complying with its nuclear obligations, the need for continued democratisation in Burma and the situation on the Korean peninsula. He also discussed the Embassy’s work with the Japanese authorities in the context of the management of the international economy through the G20 and the work in the United Nations to combat climate change in the run-up to the next conference in Mexico later this year. Closer defence links were also increasingly important. The Ambassador talked a little about the areas of disagreement with Japan, many of which were well reported in the press: the concern in the UK about continued Japanese whaling practices, the desire of the EU for a discussion with Japan that might lead to the abolition of the death penalty, and the continuing hope of the UK, US and many other countries that Japan would ratify the Hague Convention on Child Abduction.
The Ambassador spoke about the importance of deregulation in the context of Japanese economic development. We strongly supported the Government’s desire to participate in free trade arrangements, and hoped that the Government would address the outstanding problems of non-tariff barriers and further deregulation, in order to provide the best environment for possible negotiations on an Economic Integration Agreement with the EU.
The Ambassador said that he attached enormous importance to encouraging the widest possible exchange of ideas with our friends and colleagues in Japan about the way Government worked, the way we might learn from each other’s countries, and said that he hoped that as we did so, there would be a real sense in Japan of how the United Kingdom had changed in recent years: sometimes he feared that the impression of the UK in Japan was a little old-fashioned and traditional, whereas Britain had in recent decades become a much more diverse, innovative and vibrant country. He thanked the British Council Japan Association for their important work in encouraging closer understanding between Britain and Japan.