Japan and the UAE have developed an amicable relationship centred on the energy sector since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972, says Kanji Fujiki, Ambassador of Japan to the UAE. Over the years, ties have expanded to include cooperation across diverse fields such as economy, security and defence, science and technology, education, medicine and space.
In 2016, bilateral trade stood at $25 billion (Dh91.8 billion), representing 32 per cent of Japan’s trade with Middle Eastern countries.
Oil for cars
“The UAE is the second-largest crude oil exporter to Japan, accounting for 22 per cent of the country’s total crude oil import,” says the ambassador. Crude oil imports from the UAE have grown by 6 per cent in five years from 2010. In recent years, steel and aluminium imports have also seen an uptick.
“The total export value from Japan to the UAE has increased by 36 per cent from 2011-15,” Fujiki adds. Growth in vehicle exports contributed to the rise, with the UAE ranked third among importers of Japanese vehicles in 2015.
“Additionally, some of the imported Japanese products are re-exported to other countries in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. In that respect, the UAE’s importance as a Japanese trade partner is getting multiplied.”
Another field that has seen significant cooperation recently is space. Last May, the Government of Japan signed a memorandum of cooperation with the UAE Space Agency on space activities for peaceful purposes. Earlier in March, a cooperation arrangement between the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and UAE Space Agency was agreed.
“This month, many Japanese figures in space policy, studies and industry participated in the Global Space Congress because of the positive prospect of UAE space development,” says Fujiki. “While Japan has many achievements and knowledge in the space industry, the UAE has ambitious projects represented by the Emirates Mars Mission and Mars 2117 Project. Japan will make further contributions through technical cooperation and human resource development. Since a Japanese rocket will be used for the launch of the UAE Mars Probe, Japan will indeed make its best efforts for a successful launch.”
A new direction
The 2014 visit of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, gave a new impetus to the bilateral relationship, strengthening the comprehensive partnership between the two countries.
At the fifth World Government Summit in Dubai this month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe praised the UAE for its tolerance. “I was impressed by the way in which various peoples from different parts of the world and ethnicity and religion coexist in the UAE, and I express my deep admiration for the UAE as an oasis of tolerance,” he said.
The ambassador is confident the current bilateral relationship is the strongest ever in its history. “Japan and the UAE share values such as tolerance, an open society, coexistence of diverse people and respect for international rules. In addition [we] share the same ideas in many aspects such as emphasis on education, science and technology, measures against global warming, women empowerment and establishment of a knowledge-based society and economy.”
With a highly diversified economy and its status as a business hub covering Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East, the UAE has attracted many Japanese companies over the past few decades. In January 2016, there were about 300 Japanese companies in the UAE (40 in Abu Dhabi and 260 in Dubai and other emirates), dealing in everything from manufacturing and renewable energy to food.
“Excellent high-tech Japanese companies now seriously consider direct investments in the UAE,” says Fujiki. “This is the result of an increased recognition of the UAE due to its economic and social development and opportunities such as Expo 2020 Dubai, in addition to its safety and accessibility. I am certain that many more Japanese companies will set up business in the UAE and that economic relations between the two countries will expand further.”
The ambassador also stresses the importance of extending relations in the field of culture and sports. “Cultural exchanges in traditionally common interests such as falconry, equestrian and judo are significantly meaningful to connect the hearts and feelings of both nationals and share a sense of solidarity,” he says.
As Japan and the UAE get ready to host global events in 2020 — Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics Game and Expo 2020 Dubai — the ambassador hopes to further strengthen the diversified cooperation between the nations for the success of both events.