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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » May 7, 2015
Japan in Poland
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Shared Values
May 7, 2015   
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Japan’s ambassador to Poland, Makoto Yamanaka, talks to Ewa Hancock

You’ve been in Poland for more than three years. What are your impressions of the country?

Over the last three-and-a-half years, I have always been impressed by the remarkable development and prosperity of Poland. Its economy has developed so dramatically that it now ranks No. 6 in the EU in terms of GDP. The political stability and maturity here are also very impressive. Donald Tusk has been chosen as EU President and the next NATO summit is scheduled to take place next year in Warsaw. Poland is playing a leading role in the European Union in dealing with issues such as Ukraine, the Eastern Partnership, the V4, and the Energy Union. Poland is indeed the front runner of a New Europe.

The good chemistry between Polish and Japanese people is something I highly appreciate. Japanese culture is popular in Poland: sushi, martial arts, anime and Japanese language studies, to name a few. And Polish culture, Chopin and Polish film for example, is appreciated by Japanese people. We are grateful to the Polish people, who are so warm and friendly to us.

What more can be achieved in terms of relations between Poland and Japan?

Japan and Poland enjoy very good bilateral relations. Japanese investment in Poland has increased more than fivefold over the last 10 years; 300 Japanese companies are now based in this country, creating nearly 40,000 jobs. Our bilateral trade volume set a record, 2.7 billion euros, in 2013. The Japanese prime minister’s visit to Poland in 2013 and the Polish president’s visit to Japan in February demonstrated how good relations are.

However, we could further expand trade and investment so as to achieve our common goal: strong and sustainable growth. In this respect, Japanese investment is expected to appear in new sectors like energy, the environment, food and services, in addition to existing sectors like the automobile industry and electronics. Such diversification would contribute to innovation and structural reform in Poland. I have high hopes that Polish companies will increase their exports to Japan and eventually invest in Japan. Our two countries can perhaps work together in Asia and Africa. There is ongoing collaboration in Chile between Poland’s KGHM and Japan’s Sumitomo in the mining business. This may serve as a good model for future Polish-Japanese business cooperation on third markets, and thus for upgrading our economic relations.

In terms of people-to-people contacts at the grassroots level, we can achieve more interaction, building upon the existing chemistry. The annual Matsuri Picnic has been organized in Warsaw to familiarize the local community with and encourage it to enjoy Japanese tradition and culture. The Matsuri Picnic, attracting more than 15,000 people, will be held for the third time in May this year.

Exchange programs for young people will be further promoted through the new Working Holiday scheme, which was agreed upon between the two governments during the recent visit of President Komorowski to Japan.

What are the biggest opportunities and challenges in relations between our countries?

This is an opportune moment for both economies to upgrade their ties. In addition to our domestic efforts, we must broaden the scope of our economic relations and this is precisely why the speedy conclusion of the Economic Partnership Agreement and Free Trade Agreement between Japan and the European Union is important to both our countries. The conclusion of this treaty should help Poland do more business with Japan and profit more from Japan, the world’s third biggest economy. It should also help Japan do business with Poland and the EU. It should thus help upgrade relations between Poland/EU and Japan. I believe that Poland and Japan can work together to achieve the early conclusion of this treaty.

On the security front, we are both faced with a rapidly changing and opaque environment in Europe, Asia and elsewhere. The crisis in Ukraine, the difficult security situation in East Asia, extreme terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are a source of grave concern to us. Japan treasures its relations with Poland as they share basic values in terms of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Cooperation between our two countries with shared values is becoming more and more important as we face a very fluid and dangerous security environment. It is encouraging therefore that our two countries are now promoting greater strategic cooperation, including defense and security dialogue.

Will the February visit of Polish President Bronisław Komorowski to Japan result in closer ties between our countries?

There is no doubt that the presidential visit to Japan had historic significance: it saw our bilateral relationship upgraded to a strategic partnership. The visit was also very successful in bringing benefits to both countries. A joint statement issued by leaders from the two countries, entitled “Building a Framework for Strategic Partnership for Freedom, Growth and Solidarity,” identified areas of cooperation such as energy, science and technology, the fight against terrorism, and UN reform. An economic forum was held in Tokyo and business leaders from both countries participated in this event, allowing them to explore attractive new opportunities. The hope is that the presidential visit will give fresh impetus to economic, political and cultural cooperation between our two countries.
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