The energy and spectacle of the British Embassy Tokyo taiko drumming team provided a magnificent opening to the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) annual general meeting on 20 April. They are a hard act to follow. I also would like to thank all attending BCCJ members for their participation in the formal proceedings that followed.
It is an honour to chair the newly elected Executive Committee for the 2017–18 chamber year, and I am grateful for the opportunity this provides to publicly acknowledge the sterling work of individuals who enable the chamber to function effectively and efficiently. Chief among these are the BCCJ office team, and it is hard to overstate the importance of their contribution. Suffice it to say, they do an exceptional job, and I am confident that they will deliver an outstanding events programme over the year ahead.
Strength in diversity
This programme will continue to form the cornerstone of BCCJ activities. In a variety of formats, the events will provide opportunities to interact with, and obtain insight from, leaders in business and government, and to network with peers and participants from across a variety of industries and backgrounds. To deliver an environment conducive to open and active business exchange, however, it is essential that our events appeal to participants representing a diverse group—in terms of nationality and gender.
Over the past few months, I am delighted to have had the opportunity to witness enthusiasm for events aimed at particular interest groups, including industry sectors, younger members and female participants. Although not a prerequisite, I am confident that direct involvement in, or an affinity for, the UK–Japan business relationship will continue to unify the interests of what I hope will be an increasingly diverse group of participants.
The growing importance of this relationship was emphasized last month by the presence of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Chequers, the official country residence of the British prime minister. I am sure it is no coincidence that he is the first foreign leader that UK Prime Minister Theresa May chose to host there. In her official statement, she highlighted the £40bn that around 1,000 Japanese firms have invested in the UK, where they employ 140,000 people.
In evaluating further investment opportunities, Japanese firms will be paying close attention to the progress of Brexit negotiations. They will also be noting the strength of the UK economy, its skilled workforce, and low rates of taxation.
Although these factors have enabled regions throughout the UK to benefit from foreign investment, there are inevitably winners in the popularity stakes. High on the list of favourite destinations must be Edinburgh, now ranked second in the world by Deutsche Bank in terms of the quality of life index in its latest Mapping the World’s Prices report.
Whilst this alone does not explain Edinburgh’s enviable position as one of the world’s top fund management hubs, it certainly shows that there is much that makes the UK an attractive place in which to invest. That cannot be easily replicated elsewhere.