FTA: Limit damage or design bold future?

UK-Japan News June 2020

Michito Tsuruoka, an associate professor at Keio University, argued in The Diplomat on 2 April that, while Japan and the UK are well placed to pursue a bilateral deal that is more ambitious than the Japan–EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the direction and para­meters of the bilateral negotiations will be affected by the state of the EU–UK free trade agreement (FTA) delibera­tions, including the length of the transition period. Here are some highlights:

Tokyo has two goals: to protect the interests of Japanese firms operating in the UK, and to avoid a no-FTA end of the transition period.

Until then, the Japan–EU EPA remains applicable to the UK, but it will end with the termination of the transition period. Unless there is a bilateral Japan–UK deal in place, trade between the two countries will be on the World Trade Organization’s terms, causing trade disruptions.

As for the Japan–UK FTA, there is a trade-off between:

  • The need to ensure damage limitation and to replace the Japan–EU EPA on time
  • The desire to be more ambitious, aiming to conclude the most advanced FTA in the world—something which could set a new standard for other developed economies.

Tokyo and London might need to lower their sights and focus on settling immediate problems, an idea supported by many in the business communities of both countries.

They are also perfectly placed to envision a new model of economic partner­ship between mature and advanced economies, covering not just trade in goods, but also invest­ment, services, e-commerce and new technologies such as artificial intelligence, Big Data and biotechnology.

FTA poll: Put Japan first

UK-Japan News June 2020

The vast majority of readers who took part in a Daily Express survey on 14 May backed International Trade Secretary Liz Truss’ bid to strike a free trade deal with Japan which goes further than the existing EU agreement.

In the poll, 1,130 people (87%) said Britain should prioritise a trade deal with Tokyo, 133 (10%) disagreed and 44 (3%) said they didn’t know.

One reader said, “Japan will be a good market for our fish, if we are wise enough not to give it away to the pilfering EU”. Another said, “The more trade deals that the UK signs, the more pressure is placed on those negotiators who try to play hard ball with the UK over any trade deal”.

Digital body hails FTA aims to create jobs, trade, value

UK-Japan News June 2020

The Software Alliance, a leading industry advocate, welcomed on 13 May the release of negotiating objectives for FTA negotiations between the UK and Japan. London says a UK–Japan FTA could increase bilateral trade by £15.2bn.

“The UK–Japan FTA creates an opportunity for both countries to create jobs and value by growing digital trade,” said Joseph Whitlock, director of policy at The Software Alliance, also known as BSA. “BSA urges both countries to adopt provisions that build on prior agreements, including the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership and the US–Japan Digital Trade Agreement”.

Nature lover CW Nicol MBE dies at age 79

UK-Japan News June 2020

The award-winning Welsh-born conservationist CW Nicol, who played such an important role in UK–Japan relations through his love of nature, sadly passed away on 3 April at age 79 following a long battle with cancer. Since 1980, he had called Nagano Prefecture home and established the C.W. Nicol Afan Woodland Trust there in 2002 to help support the revitalisation of forests. He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2005. ACUMEN had the pleasure of speaking to him about his devotion to nature in a past issue: bccjacumen.com/wood’n-you-believe-it

Shiseido and XPO tie-up in Derby

UK-Japan News June 2020

Global logistics provider XPO Logistics, Inc. has reached an agreement with Japanese personal care giant Shiseido Company, Limited to provide omnichannel logistics services throughout the UK, the firm revealed in a 13 May press release. XPO will manage Shiseido’s logistics at a 7,500m2 distribution centre in Derby with plans to expand to 9,300m2 over the course of the partnership. Shiseido will benefit from XPO’s digital warehouse management capabilities, including rapid start-up, accelerated throughput of e-commerce orders and data-based quality control.

An XPO Logistics warehouse

News Briefs

UK-Japan News June 2020

Tokyo gongs experts on culture and health

Japan will confer The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette on Timothy Clark and with Neck Ribbon on Sir Jeremy Farrar (right), the Embassy of Japan in the UK said on 21 May. Clark was conferred for promoting the understanding and culture of Japan, and Sir Jeremy for his role in Japan’s Global Health Innovative Technology Fund and at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

Japan House London debuts digital stories

Virtual exhibitions are becoming more popular as Covid-19 has forced museums around the world to close. Japan House London announced on 13 May the launch of an audiovisual, 3D experience that takes online visitors into the world of award-winning Japanese storyteller and illustrator Anno Mitsumasa. Take the tour.

Central banks “near Forex deal”

Turkey is very close to securing a total of $20bn in foreign currency swaps from central banks in the UK and Japan, Habertürk news website said on 19 May. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was set to confirm the deal soon, it said.

Strong demand for UK food and drink

UK-Japan News March 2020

Statistics reported by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) show that the UK exported nearly £24bn worth of high-quality food and drink in 2019, up 4.9% over the previous year and 18% higher since 2016. Gov.uk said on 4 March that the increase had been driven by demand from non-EU markets. Japan made particularly strong purchases of UK food and drink, valued at £311.5mn, marking a 14.1% year-on-year rise. Annual UK seafood exports grew to £16.6mn, up 64.5% compared with 2018. British salmon also did well in Japan, as exports more than doubled to £13.3mn last year. The Scottish Salmon Company recently secured a deal to supply Genki Sushi Co., Ltd. with their Tartan Salmon brand.

Nations team up for pensions

UK-Japan News March 2020

Three global pension funds are taking a $2tn stand in favour of sustain­ability investing. Online business journal Karma Impact reported on 13 March that Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the UK’s USS Investment Management Ltd. say that they should be investing with sustainability and social impact in mind, as retirement funds are invest­ments in the future.

The firms said they are not interested in investing in “companies that seek to maximise corporate revenue without considering their impacts on other stakeholders—including the environment, workers and communities”.

National Trust offers sakura at nine key sites

UK-Japan News March 2020

Spring in Japan is famous for beautiful cherry blossom, but Covid-19 means that few Brits are likely to see these delicate pink wonders.

There’s no need to travel, however, as nine National Trust sites boast sakura, allowing for viewing in the UK. The Evening Standard reported on 14 March that Hampshire, Warwickshire, Cumbria, Cornwall, West Sussex, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Oxfordshire and Somerset all have the flowers on display.

London Health agency expands with top research job in Tokyo

UK-Japan News March 2020

London-based healthcare fieldwork agency Just Worldwide Ltd. has appointed Yuichi Ohta to the newly created research manager position in their Japan division.

According to a 12 March article on market research website MrWeb, Ohta has more than 10 years of experience in Japanese healthcare market research and knowledge of field management and moderation with healthcare professionals and patients. Managing Director Janusz Domagalski said, “Yuichi is perfectly placed so that his experience and skills will help international and local clients find solutions to issues currently faced in Japan’s unique marketplace”.

Softbank’s $5bn Share buyback

UK-Japan News March 2020

SoftBank Group Corp is buying back $5bn worth of shares after their recent slump. According to a 13 March Financial Times story, the move is partly due to pressure from activist fund Elliott Management. SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son and Elliott Management both argue that SoftBank’s $72bn market capitalisation does not reflect the value of its investment portfolio, which includes majority stakes in UK chip designer Arm, and US telecoms group Sprint.

In a short statement released by Elliott Management, the activist fund said, “SoftBank’s announcement of its intention to commence an initial buyback program of ¥500bn is clearly an important first step in addressing the company’s significant undervaluation, and one that Elliott supports”.

News Briefs

UK-Japan News March 2020

Photo: McLaren

McLaren and Buzz sign Japan growth deal
Formula One’s McLaren Racing Team Limited have signed a multi-year partnership with Buzz & Co. Asset Management Limited to lead its growth in Japan. (SportsPro Media, 10 March)

Parasite sets records
South Korean film Parasite, winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Picture, has made box office history in Japan and the UK by becoming the highest-grossing film in both countries.

The film had a record-breaking opening day in the UK, earning £1.8mn in 137 theatres across the country. In Japan, the black comedy thriller grossed more than ¥4bn and has topped the box office four weeks in a row. (The Korea Times, 13 March)

England beat Japan in women’s football
After an opening loss to the United States, England beat Japan 1–0 in their second match as forward Ellen White scored late off the bench. The win in New Jersey keeps alive England’s hopes of defending their SheBelieves Cup title. (BBC, 8 March)

Pound–yen rate hit by virus, Brexit

UK-Japan News February 2020

The covid-19 coronavirus, jitters over Brexit and the prospects for a UK–Japan trade deal have led to volatility in the pound sterling–yen exchange rate this month. As the financial blog ExchangeRates.org.uk reported on 16 February, the threat that the Chinese epidemic will result in a slowdown of the Japanese economy is at the heart of the fluctuations. One pound brought ¥143.462 at its high point and ¥141.296 at its low during the week of 10 February, and the instability could continue.

“The spread of coronavirus poses an emerg­ing downside risk to Japan’s economy, although the economic impact will depend on the extent of the spread of the disease and policy responses,” said Paul Cashin, the International Monetary Fund’s mission chief for Japan. “If prolonged and widespread, this would likely affect Japan’s tourism and retail activities through a decline in tourist arrivals and spending from China and elsewhere”.

The pound has weakened against about half of the top 40 currencies, with the yen being the biggest gainer. Sales in 2019 were up 42% over the year before. This has benefitted Japanese tourists to the UK, and Brits have continued to make their way to Japan, in part due to the low cost—the Post Office Long Haul Holiday Report 2019 named Japan the cheapest place to visit. But concerns of health and trade could make travel less attractive for both sides.

The yen has been seen as a safe-haven currency, but the potential trade exposure resulting from pro­longed quarantines and fear of travel has resulted in market anxiety.

Envoy urges new CO2 target

UK-Japan News February 2020

Ahead of this year’s UN climate change conference (COP 26), to be held on 9–19 November in Glasgow, Scotland, members of the Paris Agreement are expected to reveal their reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

According to an 18 February report by NHK World-Japan, the plans are to be announced by the end of the month. The UK has urged Japan to increase its reduction target, with British envoy to COP 26 John Murtin emphasising that Tokyo must invest in renewables to make sure that its industry has access to cheap electricity.

Firms plan clean energy

UK-Japan News February 2020

London-based Winch Energy, which specialises in sustainable solutions for off-grid distributed power, has received a boost from Itochu Corporation, one of Japan’s largest general trading firms. Energy Live News website reported on 18 February that Itochu intends to introduce power to non-electrified regions in Africa and Asia. The firm said in a statement that their strategic investment in Winch Energy will allow them to continue a proactive role in meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals by providing clean energy and supporting climate action.

London–Seoul FTA model for Tokyo?

UK-Japan News February 2020

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on 3 February that, post Brexit, the UK is priori­tising free-trade agreements (FTAs) with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the United States.

As the Asia Times wrote on 14 February, the arrange­ment reached between the UK and South Korea last August might be an ideal road­­map for Japan. Using the broad terms of the EU–Korea FTA, London and Seoul agreed a “Continuity FTA” with some modifications to take immediate effect at the end of this year, when the UK leaves the European single market.

Britain has signed continuity agreements with 48 countries, but not Japan. Now that Brexit has taken place, the path forward to a UK–Japan bilateral FTA may become clearer for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who seems to have been taking a wait-and-see approach.

UN goals aid research

UK-Japan News February 2020

In a bid to create technologies that support sustain­able coastal communities, science agencies from Japan, the UK and the Philippines have begun crafting a frame­­work for a multi-funder cooperation.

Driven by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Japan Science and Technology Agency, UK Research and Innova­tion and the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology gathered researchers from South-East Asian countries to discuss recent studies on coastal communities and to consider research collaboration.

UK English for Asia–Pacific area

UK-Japan News February 2020

English UK, a membership organisation for accredited British English language training centres, recently held workshops in Tokyo and Taipei. With more than 50 agents from the Asia–Pacific region joining, the format was designed to allow attendance by as many centres and educators from English UK’s membership as possible.

On 6 January, The Pie News reported English UK Market Development Manager Roz Gill as saying: “This region has always been important for our members. With the education strategy of the Japanese government and the Olympics in 2020, it felt like the right time to reinforce members’ partnerships in this key market”.

News Briefs

UK-Japan News February 2020

New youth work visa
Through a new UK–Japan Youth Mobility Scheme, 1,000 Japanese nationals will be able to live and work in the UK for up to two years. (British Embassy Tokyo, 10 January)

Rok shoppers back UK
A slump in South Korean visitors to Japan has resulted in a boost for the UK, which saw a 12% and 9% rise in tax-free spending during the second and third quarters of 2019. South Korean spending in Japan dropped by 40%. (Drapers, 19 December)

U-19 cricket team in 2020 World Cup
A Japanese Under-19 (U-19) cricket team has qualified for the 2020 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup in South Africa. Founded in 2017 by the Japan Cricket Association (JCA), which is led by Englishman Alan Curr, the team booked their place in the U-19 World Cup after a 170-run win against Samoa. (The New York Times, 16 January)

Photo: ICC

Reds sign J.League star
Takumi Minamino has signed with Liverpool for £7.25 million. The deal makes him just the ninth player from Japan to play in the Premier League. Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said: “Super. Outstanding. Exactly the player we wanted. Exactly the player we wished for”. (BBC, 10 January)

Tokyo, London ready to talk trade

UK-Japan News January 2020

With the UK set to leave the European Union on 31 January, the governments of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hope to begin talks on a bilateral economic partner­ship agreement (EPA) as soon as February. As NHK World reported on 6 January, the lifting of tariffs on autos is a top priority for Japan.

The terms of the EU–Japan EPA will continue to apply to trade with the UK until the end of December, but a new bilateral agreement will be required after this transition period. In addition to a one-on-one EPA, Japan has stated its support for UK membership in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Photo: British Embassy Tokyo

Aeon and Ocado sign deal

UK-Japan News January 2020

Japan’s largest shopping mall developer and supermarket operator, Aeon Co. Ltd., has partnered with the UK-based online supermarket and technology firm Ocado Group Plc. A 29 November story in the Financial Times said the move was made to compete with rivals Amazon Fresh and the online grocery delivery service collaboration between Rakuten, Inc. and Seiyu GK, the Japanese subsi­diary of US retailer Walmart Inc.

Ocado will build warehouses in the Kanto region and Aeon will utilise the firm’s automation and distribution technology. Aeon launched an online grocery service in 2008, but sales account for just 1% of its £78bn annual revenue. Japan’s online grocery market is worth £26.7bn, and that is expected to rise as society ages. The partners aim to develop capacity for ¥200bn (£1.35bn) in deliveries by 2023 and ¥1tn (£6.75bn) by 2035. The announcement boosted Ocado’s stock by 15%.

UK to beat Japan in ad spend by 2025

UK-Japan News January 2020

The UK will pass Japan to become the world’s third-largest advertising market by 2025. This was according to a 4 December report by the online news source MediaPost, which said UK advertising was up 7.8% in 2019. It was the sixth straight year of mid-to-high single-digit growth for the industry in Britain.

“Since 2013, the United Kingdom’s advertising sector has expanded by more than half, up 55% over that year’s levels,” said Brian Wieser, global president of business intelligence at GroupM, the world’s largest advertising media firm. “With that growth, the United Kingdom is unam­biguously the fourth-largest market on Earth”. If this trend continues, the UK will unseat Japan within five years.

Brit wins karaoke title

UK-Japan News January 2020

Jenny Ball, from Blackpool, England, has won the 2019 Karaoke World Championship. Some 43 finalists from around the globe competed on a stage at Kanda Myojin Shrine in Tokyo on 27–29 November. According to The Japan Times, Ball outsang more than 30,000 contestants to reach the finals and wowed judges with her renditions of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” and Jennifer Hudson’s “And I Am Telling You” to take home the gold.

Photo: Oy KWC Organization LTD.

Suzuki claims BDO win

UK-Japan News January 2020

The British Darts Organisation (BDO) held the 2020 World Darts Championship on 11 January at the O2 Arena in London and Mikuru Suzuki captured the title for Japan, The Telegraph reported. With her 3–0 win over top-seed Lisa Ashton of England, a four-time BDO world champion, Suzuki secured back-to-back titles. Ashton won consecutive titles in 2017–18.

Photo: Tip Top Pics

Tokyo sweet on mint balls

UK-Japan News January 2020

Greater Manchester candy maker Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls is expanding overseas, having closed its first major order in Japan. Confectionery Production reported on 20 November that the Tokyo-based importer and distri­bu­tor Beau & Bon Ltd. purchased 6,000 tins and bags of Uncle Joe’s signature sweets. The deal was reached after managing director Mitsuhiro Maeda visited the Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls factory in Wigan. “We are hoping to develop a long-term relation­ship,” Maeda said. Uncle Joe’s Joint Managing Director John Winnard said that British brands with history are in demand in Japan. “[Uncle Joe’s] fits that demand perfectly and we are looking forward to a long and successful partnership with Beau & Bon”.

Prince Charles in visit to Tokyo

UK-Japan News November 2019

At the behest of the British Government, and on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, Prince Charles attended the enthronement ceremony of Naruhito, Japan’s 126th monarch. As reported by the website Royal.uk, the Prince of Wales spent 22–23 October touring the Nezu Museum, the training grounds for the Wales national rugby team at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, the HMS Enterprise docked at Harumi Wharf in Tokyo Bay, Zojoji Temple and the Mitsukoshi Department Store for the Britain is GREAT campaign. He also visited the Ambassador’s Residence at the British Embassy Tokyo for a UK in JAPAN 2019–20 reception, and later joined Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s banquet at the Hotel New Otani.

BBC NAME #KUTOO AND SUMO STARS IN TOP 100

UK-Japan News November 2019

The Japanese founder of #kutoo, a hashtag movement supporting women forced to wear heels at work, is among the BBC’s list of the 100 most influential women of 2019. Yumi Ishikawa started the movement after complaining about her firm’s dress code on Twitter. Her story resonated with women throughout Japan and was shared more than 30,000 times.

The name is a reference to the #metoo movement and is a play on the Japanese words kutsu (shoes) and kutsuu (pain). In June, she submitted a petition with more than 20,000 signatures to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

Also on the list is Hiyori Kon, a 21-year-old sumo wrestler who was the subject of the 2018 award-winning documentary Little Miss Sumo. Japan still bars women from competing professionally in this national sport, and the BBC is honouring Kon for her efforts to change the rules and give women a voice in sumo.

TMSO PLANS 2020 SCOTS GIG

UK-Japan News November 2019

The Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra (TMSO) is set to perform at the 2020 Edinburgh International Festival in Scotland, according to an 8 October article on the festival’s website. The announcement was made in Tokyo during the visit of Fiona Hyslop, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.

Running 7–31 August, the festival is was established in 1947 as a world class cultural event to bring together audiences and artists from around the world. It is also an international showcase for Scottish culture.

The appearance is motivated in part by the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and the UK in JAPAN 2019–20 campaign. TMSO Music Director Kazushi Ono will conduct the programme, which will include Cello Concerto No.1 by Saint-Saëns and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. The occasion will coincide with the festival’s 55th anniversary.

Queer Eye breaks down barriers

UK-Japan News November 2019

Tan France, the English fashion designer and star of the Netflix series Queer Eye, went to Japan for the show’s latest season. According to a 22 October story by the UK newspaper and website Metro, France and co-stars Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown and Antoni Porowski thought the season to be a success, but admitted there were initial concerns about cultural differences. Berk said he feared their affectionate personalities wouldn’t connect well with a typically conservative society such as Japan, since “there’s a huge language barrier, also a huge cultural barrier”. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. “Very quickly, we realised that teaching people self-love, self-care and acceptance is universal”.