Mr. Winkless, Chairman, Leicester County Council
Dr Moran, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here in Leicester with you this evening. Ambassador Nogami has asked me to convey his best wishes to all of you.
It is almost two years since the Leicester & Leicestershire Japan Society was established. In fact, Ambassador Orita, who recently returned to Japan following the completion of his posting in the UK, attended the events associated with that occasion, including the gathering in Leicester Cathedral. Since then, I understand the membership of the Society has grown to around 50. It is certainly true to say that we at the Embassy have come to know much more about Leicester and its people thanks to our partnership with the Society. In fact, I have personally done a little research about Leicester and have found out that, aside from its prominent role in the industrial revolution, it is one of the most multicultural cities in the United Kingdom, taking pride in the peaceful and constructive coexistence of a variety of different ethnic and religious groups and offering a shining example to other cities of what can be achieved. I also know that New Walk was this country's first pedestrianised shopping centre!
The Society's initiative in organising Leicester Japan Day, in co-operation with De Montfort University, testifies to its buoyant health and confidence in the future. I understand that De Montfort University has an exchange scheme under way with Seian College for Art & Design in Kyoto, and that the works of students from both institutions will be on display on this occasion. In addition, visitors will be able to enjoy food prepared by Japanese chefs as well as experiencing ikebana, tea ceremony, origami, aikido, calligraphy and other quintessentially Japanese art forms and activities. I would like to pay tribute to everyone from the Society, the university, the city of Leicester and indeed the whole county, for their hard work in making this event possible. I am sure it will be a great success.
Let me now take this opportunity to make a few remarks about the state of relations between Japan and the United Kingdom.
In a world beset with challenges and uncertainties, it is no exaggeration to say that our relations have never been better. The close ties that we have developed are not limited to the bilateral domain but have acquired a global scope, as reflected by the importance we both attach to the pursuit of world peace and stability. In that sense, Japan and the UK have forged a truly global partnership. Our co-operation embraces the entire spectrum, including security and defence, counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation, United Nations reform, trade, investment and business partnerships, science and technology, education and culture.
Over the years it has often been our thriving economic ties that have gained the headlines. There are a number of sound reasons why this is so. For instance, the UK remains the top European destination for Japanese direct investment. Altogether, around 1,200 Japanese companies are now operating in the UK, more than 270 of them in the manufacturing sector. I understand that eight Japanese companies are located in Leicester or the surrounding area.
In fiscal 2003 there were more than 50 projects involving Japanese inward investment in the UK. These projects accounted for the creation of over 2,000 new jobs. Among recent cases of such investment, projects involving research and development facilities in areas such as telecommunications and biotechnology have been particularly noticeable. This trend is in line with the British Government's wish to see investment in high value-added ventures. I have no doubt that Japanese companies will continue to be extremely active in the UK for the foreseeable future, to the enduring benefit of everyone concerned.
Although British investment in Japan is modest in comparison, it is on an upward trend. In the telecommunications field, for instance, Vodafone has invested hugely in Japan and consequently has a well-established operation there. Meanwhile, the supermarket giant Tesco has made no secret of its plans to become a major player in the Japanese market. Foreign companies are coming to realise that a warm welcome awaits them in Japan. Indeed, Prime Minister Koizumi and his Government have made it their stated aim to achieve a dramatic increase in inward investment. This is why the Government launched its Invest Japan and Visit Japan campaigns, to which British companies and individuals will surely respond positively.
A glance at a few figures indicates the substantial volume of trade between our two countries. In 2003 the United Kingdom's exports to Japan amounted to ￡�.7 billion, representing 2 per cent of its total exports. Japan was the UK's ninth-largest market. Meanwhile, Japanese exports to the UK came to approximately ￡� billion, accounting for 3.5 per cent of the UK's total imports. Japan is the tenth-largest supplier of goods to the UK.
Of course, healthy relations in the political and economic spheres need to be underpinned by efforts to strengthen mutual understanding and boost grass-roots contacts between our two peoples. In this regard, tomorrow's event is most timely and appropriate. I am most grateful to Yoshimi and Jonathan Gregory , a wonderful couple whose mission is to foster closer friendship between Japanese and British people. They have worked tirelessly to this end through their activities both in the UK-Japan Music Society and in the Leicester & Leicestershire Japan Society.
What positive trends can we discern in the fields of education and culture? One immediately thinks of the JET Programme, which continues to go from strength to strength. Not only has it had a very positive impact on the people exposed to it in Japan, but it has helped to create a core of young Britons who are knowledgeable about and fond of Japan, who speak Japanese and whose experience equips them for a variety of roles in Japan-related fields. On the subject of Japanese language education, while the closure by Durham University of its East Asian Studies Department was a disappointment, I am encouraged by the steady rise in the number of British schools offering Japanese courses. It has therefore been a case of one step back but two steps forward for Japanese Studies in the UK recently, and we are determined to encourage further progress.
Perhaps I may conclude my remarks by referring to a venture which will surely do much to foster Japan-UK cooperation in a range of areas. This is the 2005 Aichi World Exposition, which will run from March to September next year. The Expo, which has the theme ��he Earth's Wisdom�ߡ� is a forum for pooling the talent and know-how of the widest possible range of people from around the world to address tasks common to us all, and we are very pleased indeed that the UK is an active participant now. In fact, the concept behind the UK pavilion is marvellous! I sincerely hope that many of you will visit Japan on this special occasion, when you will be able to witness UK-Japan collaboration in action. This, of course, will also be a great chance for you to see with your own eyes what our nation has to offer as an investment destination. Please do come to Japan, as an investor, as a business partner, or even as a tourist, and you can be assured of a warm welcome in a country with a unique culture embracing both rich traditions and ultra-modern entertainment!
On this note, may I thank you for your attention and wish you every success in your future endeavours.