Leaders December 2009 / January 2010

Promoting UK Interests — in business and across the board

It’s a great pleasure to be asked to write a foreword for the new British Chamber of Commerce in Japan magazine, BCCJ ACUMEN.

Last summer I returned to Japan as Ambassador, my third posting to this country over a period of 32 years. As I said to the Chamber at my first lunch with you, it is a privilege to be here in this role.

One of the biggest parts of my job is to promote the UK’s business and economic interests here in Japan, in particular supporting British business, and encouraging Japanese companies to invest in the UK. Looking back over the 15 months since I have been Ambassador, many of the highlights have been related to business. We have held excellent events at the residence for companies like Fred Perry, Berry Bros. & Rudd and Diageo. We have had the UK-Japan 2008 campaign, a visit by HMS Kent, and the annual 21st Century Group meeting, this year in Odawara. We have had high-profile visits from the Prince of Wales; the Lord Mayor of London; Lord Mandelson; Lord Adonis, now Secretary of State for Transport; Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Heath; and business leaders including Sir Terence Conran and Sir Richard Branson. And I have had the privilege to deliver honorary awards from the Queen to both companies and individuals for their contribution to UK-Japan business links.

All these have, in one way or another, helped to promote our trading links. Of course, 2008 – 09 has been a difficult year in many ways. The day I paid my introductory call on President Watanabe of Nomura was the day he took over Lehman Brothers’ operations in Europe, after what the Japanese now call “the Lehman shock”. Some of our British companies in Japan, and some Japanese investors in the UK, have not survived the year. Others have struggled. But some have also flourished, and I have been very struck by how many companies have used the crisis to reinvent themselves in one way or another, for example, by trying to make the most of the growing opportunities in low-carbon business.

As I look ahead to the forthcoming year, one area where I will be encouraging the Embassy’s UK Trade and Investment team to do more is in making the most of the way in which different worlds overlap. We are sometimes very specialised and focused in our work.

But as Ambassador, I am privileged to see just how broad the UK-Japan relationship is, and how many opportunities there are to use those links to further our corporate objectives. I would like to see more cross-fertilisation between the worlds of politics, business, academia, culture and sport, from opportunities with the new Japanese government, to the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

As for the Chamber, after the highlight of the British Business Awards in November 2009, we look forward to another busy year of events and support for the many hundreds of British businesses in Japan. We greatly value our links with the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan, and wish the BCCJ and your excellent ACUMEN magazine the very best of luck for the coming year.