As we enter 2019, we look ahead at what promises to be a momentous year for Japan and the UK, and for relations between the two countries. Japan will witness the end of the Heisei Era on 30 April with the abdication of Emperor Akihito, one of the few surviving monarchs to have been present at the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The country will then celebrate the ascension of Crown Prince Naruhito to the throne. In June, Osaka will hold the G20 Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy, designed to help advance global economic cooperation.
Later in the year, straddling an expected rise in the consumption tax, Japan will host the Rugby World Cup—a six-week jamboree to thrill sports fans—which will hopefully foster more inclusive communities that embrace opportunities for global business and exchange. The British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) and seven other foreign chambers of commerce, together known as the Rugby Alliance, are working to help this become part of the tournament’s legacy.
Looking at the UK, the process of determining the country’s future relationship with the EU will move forward. At the time of writing, uncertainties remain, but it is nevertheless clear that the UK will continue to be open to trade, investment and exchange with Europe and the rest of the world. To date, the UK government has listened closely to the wishes of Japanese investors in the British economy and will surely continue to do so.
Celebrations and honours
In tandem with business challenges, 2019 brings cause for celebration to a number of BCCJ members. British Airways marks its centenary, and Airbus will deliver the first of its magnificent A350s to the UK flag-carrier. Congratulations are also due to Brian Christian MBE, headmaster of the British School in Tokyo, who was recognised in the Queen’s New Year Honours for services to education and the community in Tokyo. This is a fine reminder that education—through the quality of teaching professionals and institutions, both at home and abroad—is one of the UK’s great sources of competitive advantage.
Another area of competitive advantage is UK excellence in technology. It is for services to this sector that the list of New Year Honours also includes Mustafa Suleyman CBE. Suleyman is a co-founder, with Demis Hassabis CBE, of DeepMind Technologies Limited, the pioneering firm in the field of artificial intelligence. Both are brilliant, visionary British entrepreneurs, and the UK is fortunate to have such innovators to inspire the next generation of technologists from among the country’s diversity of talent. That diversity itself is yet another source of competitive advantage.
A more diverse and inclusive workplace, greater technological innovation and the proliferation of socially responsible business practices have the potential for a disproportionately positive impact on sustainable economic growth in Japan and the UK. The BCCJ will continue to promote such outcomes in 2019. In doing so, we look forward to connecting our members with people who matter, and hope that the months ahead bring happiness, health and prosperity to all those members and their colleagues, clients and customers.