On Thursday 20th June, I attended the UK-Japan Global Seminar Fostering Strategic Partnerships at Chatham House, London. I attended three sessions all with eminent Japanese and European experts on the panel:
Session 1 ECONOMY
This was an extremely lively debate about Abenomics and whether it can work, what else is needed for it to work, whether Japan should enter the TPP, will the currency deflation get out of control, how Japan can move on, are the actions of the third arrow sufficient and have the first 2 arrows hit the mark enough to even warrant the third one being drawn.
There were disagreements about why Japan has been in a recession for so long, why the top Japanese companies have fallen off their perches, does Japan need more bank credits, will bringing women into the workplace increase productivity, are wage rises the only way to increase productivity and can normal growth be achieved alongside deflation. There was consensus that Japan needs to raise productivity and move from predominantly manufacturing industry to new areas such as IT and innovations and it was also suggested that the government could focus corporate tax reduction on innovation whilst raising taxes. Issues of corporate governance were raised-are companies holding on to non-productive employees and still hanging on to seniority system and the issues of immigration and tourism as growth areas were touched upon.
Session 2 – SECURITY
This session focused on how the security relationship between Japan and the UK/EU is evolving and outlined various poignant points: the centre of economic power is shifting from Europe to Asia, China is becoming more important for the US and that the UK defense and security is still very focused on Afghanistan.Discontent was voiced from the Japanese side about the lack of multi-layered co-operation between Japan and the UK ( as exists between Japan and the US) and recommendations were made for more dialogue between Japan and the UK, more tri-lateral co-operation between Japan, EU and the US, particularly in light of North Korea It was noted that the UK Japan Security relationship was in its infancy, having only been agreed by the two Prime Ministers last year and it is a significant challenge to include everyone with so many other national interests at stake.
An interesting proposal was put forward for the UK to fund
Session 3- ENVIRONMENT/ENERGY
This session was mainly about how emissions have raised and how both countries can cap these emissions. Various issues arose: both countries need innovative cutting edge technologies although questions were raised about how long it takes for these technologies to get to market. Fukushima has changed public perception about nuclear power and even Germany shut down significant nuclear plants after this disaster and de-commissioning and ensuring safety of other nuclear sites is Japan’s priority. There was broad consensus that other energy alternatives need to be found to meet the targets of cutting down global emissions and various alternatives were discussed: Artic resources, hydrocarbons, methane hydrate, carbon capture & storage (CCS), in which Japan is a world leader & cleaner coal technologies. Questions were raised about why energy efficiency has gone down in Japan and up in the UK (now the 2nd most energy efficient nation in the world) and how to bring down the price of CCS through science and technology.
A transcript of the opening speeches by Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP and Ambassador Hitoaki Fujii can be found onChatham Houses website and I am sure the full transcript of the seminar will be available soon.