Building economic ties with Japan
This week I have been in Japan to strengthen cultural and economic ties and the special relationship that exists between our two countries.
Scotland is an outward looking society and Japan is an important international ally. This trip underlined the Scottish Government’s determination to maintain our reputation on the global stage.
One message that I delivered repeatedly to our Japanese friends is that, despite Brexit, Scotland remains an open and attractive place for cultural collaboration and economic development.
In doing so, a key part of my visit was to meet current and future investors. I conducted many business meetings including with Mitsubishi Electric, Reprocell and the important Nippon Foundation.
I met Kyowa Hakko Kirin, a research and development company who acquired ProStrakan in Galashiels in 2011. Their positive experience in Scotland means they recently announced an expansion of their headquarters, taking the number of employees in Scotland from 150 to 200 over the next five years.
During a meeting with the Japanese Government I was encouraged by its interest in learning from our experience in cultural programmes surrounding the London 2012 Olympics and the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Food and drink sales to Japan rose by 9% to a record £98.7 million in 2015, a hugely important market for our companies. I visited the Isetan Shinjuku in Tokyo, one of Japan’s most prestigious department stores, and took part in the first ever Scottish food and drink Fair. This was an opportunity to help promote the quality and provenance of authentic Scottish produce.
Our inward investment agency, Scottish Development International, has linked up with JETRO, or the Japan External Trade Organization, to promote mutual trade and investment between Japan and Scotland. At a joint seminar on trade opportunities, I reaffirmed to current and future investors that Scotland is an attractive place to do business.
Japan has a burgeoning marine renewables sector. Visiting Nagasaki University, which already boasts productive links with Scottish universities, mostly in renewables and marine resources, I made clear our determination to strengthen international collaboration between our academic institutions.
I announced that Scottish environmental services firm Aquatera has seized this opportunity, securing a contract to support a major tidal energy project in Japan. This says much about Japan’s esteem for our knowledge in this area.
Japan has an ageing population., which is why Scotland’s expertise in dementia programmes is recognised by Japanese health professionals. As a result, the University of Stirling and the Tokyo Metropolitan Geriatric Hospital and Institute of Gerontology signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing to a long-term partnership.
The Toshima Ward area of Tokyo actively celebrates greater collaboration with their international counterparts. I am delighted that the Japan Scotland Association has worked tirelessly in this part of the city to organise a Scotland Day, which will take place later this year.
This visit to Japan has been fruitful: I have met many people involved in education, culture, business and media. My message has been clear, Scotland values its relationship with Japan and we will continue to build on strong business, educational and cultural ties. In the process we will create new opportunities for growth to benefit both our countries.