Diplomatic Bluebook 2020

Chapter 3

Japan's Foreign Policy to Promote National and Global Interests

3 Communicating Japan's Economic Strengths (Including the Promotion of Japanese Food Exports)

(1) Promotion of Japanese Companies' Overseas Business Expansion by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and Accompanying Diplomatic Missions Overseas

Recent years have seen a rise in the number of branches operated by Japanese companies with branches overseas, reaching 77,651 as of October 2018. One of the reasons behind this is that many Japanese companies, which underpin Japan's economic development, have embarked more actively than ever before on overseas expansion with the aim of further cultivating foreign markets. There is considerable momentum behind economic growth abroad, mainly in Asia. To capture this for the Japanese economy, it is becoming increasingly important for the Government to support Japanese companies.

In light of the situation, alongside the diplomatic missions overseas, MOFA is actively engaged in supporting Japanese companies in their efforts to expand their businesses overseas. At the diplomatic missions overseas, all staff, including those responsible for Japanese business support, provide Japanese companies with information while lobbying foreign governments under the leadership of ambassadors and consuls-general. Under the motto of being “open and responsive government offices,” these missions aim to provide meticulous and specific support that corresponds with the conditions in that respective region. They also offer information about local legal systems through seminars, consultations, and other means. In FY2019, these were provided at 16 diplomatic missions in 12 countries, with a focus on Asia.

In addition to consultations about business problems, another important function performed by diplomatic missions overseas for Japanese companies is promotion and publicity of the “Japan Brand” for products, technologies, and services, as well as for agricultural, forestry, and fishery products, from Japanese companies at receptions to celebrate the Emperor's birthday and various other events and exhibitions. These missions actively offer the embassies and official residences of the ambassadors for use as publicity and advertising spaces for Japanese companies to hold product exhibitions, or for local governments to hold local product exhibitions and food-tasting events. These spaces can be used for conducting seminars on business expansion, or for exchange with local companies and concerned organizations. A wide range of publicity activities are being implemented that target countries ranging from those that already have a strong affinity with Japan to those that have not yet had much contact with Japan.

From the perspective of public-private cooperation and support for companies, it is important not only to support Japanese enterprises seeking to expand their businesses overseas, but also to support those already operating overseas. Following the June 2016 national referendum in the UK on whether to remain in or to leave the EU, the UK left the EU on January 31, 2020. As Japanese businesses and the global economy could be significantly impacted by the actions taken by the UK and EU, as well as the results of their negotiations, the Government of Japan launched the Government Task-force regarding the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU, chaired by the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, in July 2016 (convened 15 times as of the end of January, 2020). The task force took all necessary measures to minimize such impact, including consolidating and analyzing information across all sectors of the Government. Negotiations concerning the future relationship between the UK and EU are scheduled to be conducted, and the Government of Japan will continue to closely observe all relevant trends while taking all necessary measures, including providing information to Japanese companies.

(2) Promotion of the Japanese Infrastructure System in Overseas Business Expansion

In order to capture infrastructure demand mainly in emerging countries and promote infrastructure exports by Japanese companies, the “Ministerial Meeting on Strategy relating to Infrastructure Export and Economic Cooperation,” comprising relevant cabinet ministers and the Chief Cabinet Secretary serving as chair, was established in 2013. A total of 44 meetings have been held as of December 2019. Along with discussions on annual revisions to and follow-ups for the Infrastructure System Export Strategy, discussions have also been held concerning issues in individual fields and specific regions such as Central Asia and the Caucasus and third country cooperation (39th meeting), and the environment (42nd meeting).

The first edition of the Infrastructure System Export Strategy was drawn up in May 2013. The 2019 revised edition, in addition to strengthening Japanese corporate competitiveness, sets out guidelines to promote specific policies under the following four pillars while taking into account international contributions from quality infrastructure, further expanding business investment, etc.: (1) strengthening competitiveness between the public and private sectors, (2) strategic initiatives aimed at increasing orders, (3) promoting quality infrastructure, and (4) efforts for a wide range of infrastructure.

Japan has also been furthering the dynamic development of trade promotion by the Government, along with systemic improvements aimed at the strategic use of ODA loans and overseas loans and investments. As a result, at the 14th Meeting of the Japan-Russia Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Issues, held in December 2018, gradual steps were taken toward an association of Japanese companies (Sojitz Corporation, Japan Airport Terminal Co., Ltd. (JATCO), and Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport & Urban Development (JOIN)) establishing and operating a passenger terminal, which included the signing of a shareholders' agreement with Khabarovsk Airport.

With regard to diplomatic missions overseas, MOFA has appointed “Officers in charge of Infrastructure Projects” to gather and consolidate information on infrastructure projects in diplomatic missions overseas in countries of focus (200 personnel at 96 diplomatic missions overseas in 73 countries as of the end of December 2019). This initiative has also shown results.

(3) Promotion of the Export of Agricultural, Forestry, and Fishery Products and Food (Regulations on Japanese Food Imports after the Great East Japan Earthquake)

The Government of Japan has set a goal to expand the value of Japanese agricultural, forestry, and fishery products and food exports to 1 trillion yen by 2019 (“Economic Measures for Realizing Investment for the Future” (Cabinet decision, August 2016)), and all Government agencies have been working toward further increasing these exports. MOFA is also collaborating with the relevant ministries and agencies, as well as Japanese companies and local governments, to utilize the function and facilities of diplomatic missions and unique connections all over the world to enthusiastically promote the attractiveness of Japanese products. In particular, Japanese business support officers (in charge of the food industry) have been assigned to 58 diplomatic missions overseas in 54 countries and regions to strengthen initiatives to promote the export of agricultural, forestry, and fishery products and food. Leveraging personal relationships built up locally, Japan has made energetic efforts toward such promotion at numerous opportunities such as receptions and cultural events to which ambassadors, consuls-general, and other dignitaries have been invited from countries and regions around the world (see the Special Feature on page 284).

One of the biggest barriers to increasing exports is import restrictions placed on Japanese agricultural, forestry, and fishery products and food by countries and regions following the Great East Japan Earthquake and the TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident. Although nine years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, the fact that 21 countries and regions (as of December 2019) continue to impose import restrictions on Japanese agricultural, forestry, and fishery products and food remains a serious problem. As eliminating these restrictions and addressing Japan's reputational damage are top priorities for the Government of Japan, MOFA is also making every effort in collaboration with the relevant ministries and agencies. Regarding import restrictions imposed by the ROK on marine and other products, following efforts to address the issue by utilizing the WTO framework, a report was issued at a February 2018 WTO Panel meeting (equivalent to a first instance) which stated that the ROK's measures were unnecessarily restrictive, arbitrary and unjustifiably discriminatory, while constituting violations of the WTO and SPS Agreements. However, in April 2019 the Appellate Body, which serves as the WTO's court of last resort, issued a report reversing the Panel's ruling on the grounds that the body was not able to conduct a sufficient legal analysis of the matter (did not sufficiently consider all matters normally considered). While the Appellate Body did not explicitly rule on the compliance of the ROK's measures with the WTO Agreement itself, its report confirmed without contestation the Panel's findings that the radioactivity concentration in Japanese foods fell below the levels prudently established based on international standards. To prevent this incident from causing further reputational damage, Japan has been thoroughly explaining the contents of the report at all possible opportunities to all concerned countries and regions since the report's release, and has once again assertively requested the prompt lifting of import restrictions based on scientific evidence.

Import restrictions on Japanese marine products by South Korea (the result of WTO dispute settlement procedures)

As a result of these efforts, import restrictions were lifted in Bahrain (March), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (June), and Brunei (October). So far, 33 countries and regions have removed their import restrictions: Canada, Myanmar, Serbia, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Guinea, New Zealand, Colombia, Malaysia, Ecuador, Viet Nam, Iraq, Australia, Thailand, Bolivia, India, Kuwait, Nepal, Iran, Mauritius, Qatar, Ukraine, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Turkey, New Caledonia (territory of France), Brazil, Oman, and the three above-mentioned countries. In addition, restrictions were eased in 2019 by Singapore, the U.S., the Philippines, United Arab Emirates, Macau, and the EU. In the case of Singapore, a decision has been made to conduct a conditional cancellation of import suspensions beginning in January 2020. Examples such as this show how quickly international understanding is spreading and how the number of restricted product categories and regions imposing those restrictions are decreasing (as of the end of December, 2019).

Working closely with the relevant ministries, agencies, local governments, and other organizations, MOFA will continue taking every opportunity and making every effort to disseminate information and appeal to countries and regions that maintain import restrictions, with the goal of having restrictions promptly removed and reputational damage repaired based on scientific evidence.

Japanese Sake as an Asset in Diplomacy: Japanese Sake Course for Diplomats

Japanese sake being served at a reception hosted by the Embassy of Japan in IndonesiaJapanese sake being served at a reception hosted by the Embassy of Japan in Indonesia

The International Wine Challenge, one of the world's largest competitive fairs held in London every year, established the Sake Awards category in 2007. Today, Japanese sake is becoming increasingly popular around the world. Since early 2013, when washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine) was designated as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, the volume and amount of Japanese sake exports have begun to exhibit significant growth. In 2018, Japan exported 25,746 kiloliters (approximately 14 million 1.8-liter bottles) of sake, and the export value exceeded 20 billion yen for the first time. While exports from Japan are increasing, a growing number of countries have breweries that are producing their own sake, in addition to importing sake from Japan.

Japanese diplomatic missions overseas are trying to make the most of all opportunities to introduce Japanese sake. Japanese sake is served at banquets and meals with VIPs and used for a toast in large-scale events such as receptions to celebrate the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor. It is generally said that Japanese sake goes well with a wide variety of cuisines. Many of the foreign guests highly appreciate the Japanese sake served at these occasions.

During the Japanese sake course (Photo: Lecturer, Ms. Hiraide Toshie)During the Japanese sake course (Photo: Lecturer, Ms. Hiraide Toshie)

When Japanese sake is served at diplomatic missions overseas, it is important to provide explanations based on accurate knowledge of Japanese sake. The growing popularity of Japanese sake overseas is precisely why it is necessary for each and every Japanese diplomat to have an in-depth understanding about it. With this in mind, since 2011, MOFA has been inviting experts and sake brewers to conduct Japanese sake courses for officers who are going to be posted overseas, from Ambassadors and Consuls-General to general staff members. The aim of the Japanese sake course is to enable MOFA officers to use Japanese sake more effectively as an asset in their diplomatic activities, through opportunities such as dinners and receptions with important guests, which are held to promote understanding of Japan and for networking purposes. At the same time, the course also aims to further raise the standing and repute of Japanese sake overseas. The contents of the course include the purpose of serving Japanese sake, how to choose a brand of sake, how to offer sake in a way that is tailored to the people of the respective countries, the recommended way of drinking sake, and the differences between Japanese sake and other types of alcohol in the scientific respect. Through the course, participants learn to deliver clear explanations on the aforementioned topics to foreign people with different food cultures. Participants also gain the knowledge on how to select Japanese sake to pair with food. MOFA will continue to put an effort into enriching the contents of the course in cooperation with experts and sake brewers, so that every diplomat at a diplomatic mission overseas can learn to promote Japanese sake effectively.

Harnessing the Power of “Working Together” to Dispel Harmful Rumors

Uchibori Masao

Governor of Fukushima Prefecture

Initiatives to abolish import restrictions following the Great East Japan Earthquake

Fukushima Prefecture has a beautiful natural environment, and a rich history steeped in tradition. It is also blessed with a diverse range of agricultural, forestry, and fisheries products cultivated in its great climate. However, as a result of the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing nuclear power station accident, the environment in which the residents of Fukushima Prefecture live has undergone dramatic changes.

Immediately following the nuclear accident, 54 countries and regions placed restrictions on the import of agricultural, forestry, and fisheries products from the Prefecture. For a period of time, export volume fell by about 90% in comparison with pre-earthquake levels. However, as a result of the efforts of the central government, as well as ongoing work to conduct monitoring inspections for radioactive substances in food and disseminate accurate information in Japan and overseas, the number of countries and regions imposing import restrictions fell to 20 and export volume hit a record high in FY2018.

Initiatives to dispel harmful rumors

Due to the image of Fukushima in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the number of foreign tourists to the Prefecture fell to about 30% of pre-earthquake levels. Fukushima Prefectural Government, in addition to actively disseminating information through social media and other means, has made efforts to distribute publicity videos produced by foreign creators and animations based on the themes of agricultural products. As a result, the total number of foreign tourists staying in Fukushima reached a record high in 2018. Going forward, efforts will be made to strengthen the strategic dissemination of information from the foreign perspective by taking advantage of the unique charms of Fukushima such as its breathtaking scenery, food, and “samurai spirit.”

I believe that the best method for dispelling harmful rumors is to spread information carefully, but with zeal and enthusiasm. While exerting our originality and creativity, we will continue to actively progress both our “defence” measures of disseminating accurate information and our “offence” measures of promoting Fukushima's appeal to people in Japan and abroad.

Expectations for the central government

In 2019, I visited Europe and held seminars, receptions, and markets in various countries. In particular, my meeting with Ms. Anne Bucher, Director-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), the European Commission, provided an extremely important opportunity to foster understanding about Fukushima's initiatives toward securing food safety.

We hope that the central government will continue to put its best efforts into further expanding the export of agricultural, forestry, and fisheries products from Fukushima Prefecture and dispelling harmful rumors both inside and outside of Japan by taking actions. These actions include urging countries and regions to abolish import restrictions as soon as possible while at the same time disseminating accurate information based on scientific grounds.

Outlook for the Prefecture

In 2020, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held. The Grand Start of the Olympic Torch Relay will take place in Fukushima Prefecture in March, while softball and baseball matches will be held in Fukushima City in July. The Games, which have also been promoted as the “Reconstruction Olympics,” offer an excellent opportunity to express our gratitude for the support we have received from people around the world, and to present to Japan and the world the steady progress that Fukushima Prefecture has made toward revitalization. Hence, we will be working together with the central government, the relevant agencies, and all the people who care for Fukushima Prefecture to advance initiatives aimed at facilitating the correct understanding of Fukushima's current situation and to encourage visits to Fukushima.

(Note: This column was written in January 2020.)

Trade promotion event hosted by the Governor in Viet Nam (August 25, 2017, Ho Chi Minh)Trade promotion event hosted by the Governor in Viet Nam (August 25, 2017, Ho Chi Minh)
Trade promotion event hosted by the Governor in France (March 24, 2018, Paris)Trade promotion event hosted by the Governor in France (March 24, 2018, Paris)
Paying a courtesy call to Ms. Anne Bucher, Director-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), the European Commission (October 11, 2019, Brussels, Belgium)Paying a courtesy call to Ms. Anne Bucher, Director-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), the European Commission (October 11, 2019, Brussels, Belgium)
The “Future of Fukushima Seminar” (October 11, 2019, Brussels, Belgium)The “Future of Fukushima Seminar” (October 11, 2019, Brussels, Belgium)