Diplomatic Bluebook 2022

Chapter 2

Japan's Foreign Policy by Region

Section 4 Latin America and the Caribbean

1 Overview

(1) Situations in Latin America and the Caribbean

The Latin American and the Caribbean (hereafter referred to as “LAC”) region mostly consists of countries who share universal values with Japan such as freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. It has a population of about 650 million and is a major producer of natural resources such as minerals and energy as well as food and has considerable economic potential with its large market.

Although the LAC region was affected by the global spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in 2020, by the second half of 2021, the number of infections had significantly decreased in many countries and vaccination had progressed. The economy, which greatly shrank in 2020, is showing signs of recovery, including the GDP growth rate turning positive in 2021. On the political front, stable order was generally maintained, and democratic elections were held peacefully in many countries.

On the other hand, in 2021, the spread of COVID-19 further highlighted social problems such as the disparity between rich and poor people, and the rise of leftists and new political forces were seen as an expression of the mistrust in the existing political systems. In Venezuela, confrontations are continuing between the administration and the opposition parties. The number of Venezuelans who have fled to neighboring countries as refugees due to the worsening political, economic, and social situation in Venezuela exceeded 5.9 million as of November, and receiving these refugees continues to be a regional challenge. A dialogue between the ruling and opposition parties has been held in Mexico since August, and its direction is the subject of attention.

In addition, in the LAC region, there are Nikkei (Japanese immigrants and their descendants) communities of over two million people or about 60% of the world's Nikkei population. The Nikkei community has fostered a sense of affinity toward Japan in LAC countries through contributions to the local community for more than 100 years. On the other hand, generations have transitioned over 100 years since the Japanese migration began, and how to deepen ties to Japan among the community, including among the younger generation, has become a challenge.

(2) Japanese Diplomacy toward Latin America and the Caribbean Countries

Japan's diplomacy toward the LAC region has developed under the guiding principle of the three “Juntos!!” (meaning “together”, namely “progress together,” “lead together,” and “inspire together“) announced by Prime Minister Abe in 2014. In December 2018, Prime Minister Abe summarized the results under this principle for the entire region, and announced the concept of the Initiative to Enhance Connectivity between Japan and Latin America and the Caribbean as the guideline for further cooperation. Japan has been aiming to deepen cooperative relations with LAC countries based on this concept.

In 2021, although international travel was restricted due to the influence of COVID-19 as it was in 2020, in-person diplomatic activities were gradually resumed. Exchanges of views were held on cooperation to maintain and expand the free and open international order based on the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) and the rule of law, measures to address global challenges including COVID-19, the strengthening of economic relations, and other matters. In January, Foreign Minister Motegi visited Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil, where he conducted activities such as paying courtesy calls to presidents and holding ministerial meetings with his counterparts. Furthermore, in July, he visited Guatemala, Panama, and Jamaica, where he held meetings with the destination countries, as well as the Japan-SICA (Central American Integration System) Foreign Ministers' Meeting and the Japan-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ministerial-Level Conference. In addition, in the same month, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Uto Takashi visited the Dominican Republic and Ecuador. He met with government dignitaries of each country, attended a ceremony in the Dominican Republic commemorating the 65th anniversary of Japanese immigration, and held talks with representatives of Nikkei organizations. Furthermore, the Foreign Minister of Antigua and Barbuda visited Japan on the occasion of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 (Tokyo 2020 Games). In November, the Vice President of Colombia and the Foreign Minister of Paraguay visited Japan, and held ministerial meetings and other events. Through such meetings, Japan worked to strengthen bilateral relations as well as to strengthen cooperation to resolve various issues in the international arena.

On the economic front, supply chain connections are strengthening, as shown in the doubling of the number of Japanese companies operating in the LAC region since 2011. Japan is working on promoting free trade together with LAC countries including through the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP11 Agreement), in which Mexico, Peru, and Chile participate. In 2021, economic relations continued to deepen, including the entry into force of the TPP11 Agreement in Peru.

In the field of development cooperation, for some areas of the LAC region that have achieved economic growth, South-South cooperation is being accelerated by countries that have already “graduated” or will “graduate” from the status of recipient countries on the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) List of ODA Recipients by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Japan is promoting triangular cooperation with these countries. Moreover, given that, in addition to the serious damages caused by COVID-19, many countries have vulnerable medical systems, Japan is also cooperating with the region on COVID-19 countermeasures. Within the bilateral cooperation framework, for example, since the spread of COVID-19, Japan has provided grant aid (totaling about 9.1 billion yen as of December 2021) to 25 LAC countries for the provision of health- and medical-related equipment that contributes to COVID-19 countermeasures and the strengthening of healthcare and medical systems. In 2021, Japan also supported provision of vaccines, providing about 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to Nicaragua through the COVAX Facility. Furthermore, Japan is providing assistance to the Nikkei community in the LAC region affected by COVID-19.

Japan-SICA Foreign Ministers' Meeting (July 16, Guatemala)Japan-SICA Foreign Ministers' Meeting (July 16, Guatemala)
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Uto delivers remarks at a ceremony commemorating the 65th anniversary of Japanese immigration to the Dominican Republic (July 26, Dominican Republic)State Minister for Foreign Affairs Uto delivers remarks at a ceremony commemorating the 65th anniversary of Japanese immigration to the Dominican Republic (July 26, Dominican Republic)