It is my great honour to work as Managing Director of the Japan side of the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation with my friend Dr Philippe de Taxis du Pöet, Managing Director for the EU side and other colleagues. I am particularly happy to work for the Centre which is familiar to me, as I was overseeing the Centre as Director of Europe of the Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry (METI) in the late 1990s.
I recognise the importance of EU-Japan relationship now more than ever through my nearly 30-year career as a government official and 10-year career as a corporate executive at Hitachi, during which I was engaged with Japan's international relations.
One of the recent epoch-making events for the EU and Japan is the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and its entry into force last year. It is the largest of its kind, covering about 40% of the world trade. I have strong personal feelings about this EPA. The discussion about the EU-Japan EPA originally started when then Prime Minister Abe talked to then President Barroso of the European Commission in Brussels in 2007. I was at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), accompanying PM Abe and thereafter I had preparatory consultations with my counterpart at that time, Mr. Mauro Petriccione of DG Trade, for three years. Then, after moving to Hitachi, I have lobbied both Japanese and EU governments for the EU-Japan EPA from the private business perspective. Therefore, I was pleased to see the EPA concluded and enforced as someone being professionally involved with it from its beginning to the conclusion. Now I am committed to encouraging businesses on both sides to actively utilise this EPA with a view of strengthening trade and investment between EU and Japan further.
We have a strong channel for business dialogue between EU and Japan, which is the EU-Japan Business Round Table (BRT). I have also strong feelings about this as "continuity is the father of success." The BRT is a unified framework for dialogue to produce joint policy recommendations to the leaders of the EU and Japanese governments at the highest level. Until the 1990s, there used to be two different channels of business dialogue between EU and Japan. Also, at the Japanese government level, METI and MOFA had a tendency to pursue their own channels separately. I felt that those channels should be unified in order not to dilute the power of influence thus I had coordinated with many stakeholders of industries and governments on both sides. I vividly recall my conversations with Sir Count Davignon, then prominent European business leader. That is the origin of the current EU-Japan Business Round Table. The mechanism of BRT which includes a direct handover to the President of the European Commission and the Prime Minister of Japan of joint policy recommendations is very effective. The BRT is currently chaired by Mr. Sakuyama, Chairman of Mitsubishi Electric, on the Japanese side. He is also Chairman of the Board of Governors of the EU-Japan Centre. I am fully committed to furthering this very influential framework of dialogue.
As referred to in the EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA), both EU and Japan have many common challenges, which would require EU Japan collaborations. I would like to point out two issues which the Centre needs to prioritise.
One is energy and environment, in particular, climate issues. I had been in charge of energy policy over the years and was a member of the Governing Board of the International Energy Agency. With growing climate crisis all over the world every year, it is an urgent task to accelerate the efforts of de-carbonisation of energy supply and use. I believe that collaboration between EU and Japan would be effective for many areas including research and development, promotion of renewable energies, carbon capture, usage and storage, and hydrogen.
The other priority is digital economy. We need to urge policy responses and business practices to incorporate digital technologies into economy and society in a positive manner. I have an experience of promoting an idea of "Society 5.0" as Japan's goal both for government and businesses when I was supporting Mr. Hiroaki Nakanishi, Chairman of Hitachi and KEIDANREN. The idea is to utilise digital technologies for progress of human society as a whole, rather than simply for strengthening industrial competitiveness implied in the "4th Industrial Revolution", which has common ground with the Sustainable Development Goals. I believe that the EU's "Digital Single Market" has similar objectives. The issues around digital technologies are wide, including regulatory reforms, trade rules, tax rules and even ethics. I believe both EU and Japan should tackle these challenges collaboratively both at public and private levels.
The Centre is the main platform of EU-Japan partnership with accumulated experiences in activities such as exchanges and development of human capitals, promotion of business activities including small and medium sized enterprises, science and technology cooperation, and information dissemination and policy recommendations in its 33 years of history.
I look forward to working with many colleagues and stakeholders to make the Centre fully functioning in those areas mentioned above.