Japan and UAE enter a new era of friendship

Japan will make every effort to find new avenues for further cooperation, says Akio Isomata, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the UAE

By Muzaffar Rizvi

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Akio Isomata, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the UAE, said both the nations are now better equipped to discuss wide-ranging economic and business cooperation in a concrete manner.
Akio Isomata, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the UAE, said both the nations are now better equipped to discuss wide-ranging economic and business cooperation in a concrete manner.

Published: Mon 11 Dec 2023, 1:32 PM

Japan and the UAE have entered a new era of friendship and cooperation this year and will further strengthen their bilateral relations in years to come, says a top diplomat.

Akio Isomata, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the UAE, said both the nations are now better equipped to discuss wide-ranging economic and business cooperation in a concrete manner.

“As one of the striking features making our bilateral relations special, I would like to refer to the trust existing between the two countries, which constitutes the foundation of our relations and which makes us such strong partners as we are today,” Akio Isomata said during an interview ahead of the COP28.

Excerpts from the interview:

What are the highlights of bilateral relations between Japan and the UAE for the year 2022? Was there any substantial progress in the field of economy, too?

Having celebrated 50 years of diplomatic relations last year, Japan and the UAE entered a new era of the next 50 years of friendship and cooperation this year. Both countries have steadily developed bilateral relations for more than half a century, starting from oil and gas into a variety of fields, including infrastructure, outer space, food, healthcare, retail business, tourism. I would like to highlight two recent developments, among others, focusing on the economic field.

With the establishment of implementation mechanism last year of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Initiative (CSPI) launched earlier between the two governments, all of the five subcommittees under the CSPI, which includes the one dedicated to economic, trade, energy and industry cooperation, as well as a ministerial plenary session, have been successfully held this year. With the mechanism set in motion and to be utilised every year, the two countries are now better equipped to discuss wide-ranging economic and business cooperation in a concrete manner and on a project basis.

I would also like to mention a new cooperation scheme involving Japanese start-up companies. Earlier this year, the two countries launched ‘JU-CAT’ (Japan-UAE Coordination scheme for Advanced Technology) to enable Japanese start-ups with advanced technologies to collaborate with UAE partners in fields such as hydrogen, ammonia among others. As the world makes rapid strides on a path to decarbonisation, Japan and the UAE can together accelerate their efforts, including those of the UAE regarding the hosting of COP28, making the best use of this scheme.

With the restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic all gone, we saw a good recovery of cross-border movement of people throughout this year. Was there any notable development between the two countries in the field of people to people exchange?

People-to-people exchanges, especially among youths, form the base of solid bilateral relations between countries, and this is an area where Japan has a great strength. As the UAE puts further efforts in diversifying its economy and in sending skilled Emirati workforce to the private sector, there are so many things both countries can do together. Let me refer to a few examples below:

The Japan International Cooperation Centre (JICE) provides an internship programme for UAE university students at Japanese companies, in which UAE students are offered an opportunity to learn and work at Japanese firms for 8 weeks in total, either in Japan, in the UAE or in both countries. This year 13 Emirati university students participated in this program. Aside from assisting young Emiratis in studying in Japanese universities through scholarship and other avenues, at a younger level, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has started a high school student exchange program with the UAE, and a group of around 20 students from Tokyo visited the UAE last year and this year.

In addition, with the introduction of full visa exemption measures November last year, Emirati ordinary passport holders can now visit Japan without applying for visa in advance, and we are expecting a greater number of Emirati tourists visiting and enjoying stay in Japan this year and ahead.

How do you think the two countries can develop bilateral relations toward the future, and what makes the Japan-UAE relations stand out as compared to other bilateral relations?

As the UAE pursues its development on the path of further diversification of economy and knowledge-based economy, it also offers huge opportunities for Japan to work together with the UAE, for example, by matching various resources available in both countries including innovative technologies and financial resources, or by engaging in cooperation involving another or other countries. For that purpose, we will use all the mechanisms, programmes, or projects to the maximum extent, including the CSPI mentioned above, and will also make every effort to find new avenues for further cooperation.

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during the UAE - Japan Business Forum in Abu Dhabi on July 17, 2023. — AFP
Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during the UAE - Japan Business Forum in Abu Dhabi on July 17, 2023. — AFP

As one of the striking features making our bilateral relations special, I would like to refer to the trust existing between the two countries, which constitutes the foundation of our relations and which makes us such strong partners as we are today. Trust between individuals is not easily earned, nor is trust between countries. We have had a history of excellent cooperation for more than 50 years, and by focusing on people-to-people exchange and HRD cooperation continuously all through these years, we built up unwavering trust in each other. We appreciate people of the UAE put a great trust in such values as diligence and discipline Japanese people cherish and uphold. The strong bond based on the trust between the two countries has made our relations rock-solid.

Japan holds the presidency of the G7 this year and the UAE will host the COP28 this year. How do you see Japan can work together with the UAE for the success of the COP 28 and for addressing climate change issues?

(The interview was conducted prior to the COP 28.)

Heading towards a decarbonised world, Japan is of the view that: we should advance cooperation toward the goal of carbon neutrality/net-zero emissions while ensuring energy security; we should recognise there are various and practical pathways toward that goal depending on the circumstances of each country. Japan, as the chair of the G7 this year, led the group’s discussion having these views in mind, and we see a lot in common in the UAE’s strategy on the path of energy transition. This is why I strongly believe we can cooperate with the UAE for the success of the COP28 and make a substantial contribution together to the global efforts in tackling climate change. In July this year when Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited the UAE, we launched a vision to establish the Middle East as a hub for clean energy and decarbonisation under the ‘Global Green Energy Hub’ initiative, and the both governments have already started to work on it. Prior to this, both countries agreed to establish the Joint Crediting Mechanism (JCM) to contribute to the GHG reduction targets through joint projects. Japan will also be showcasing Japanese companies’ innovative technologies at the venue of the COP 28. With commitment, ambition, technology and resources to be made available by the two countries, I believe Japan and the UAE can be together at the forefront of leading the global efforts in tackling climate change issues.

— muzaffarrizvi@khaleejtimes.com


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