President July 2019

Shared interests

G20 delivered optimism for UK and Japan

Earlier this month in Osaka, G20 leaders committed to “strive to realise a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep [their] markets open”.

As pointed out in The Financial Times, however, the sense of ambition in the communiqué is some­what less than the more purposeful pledge issued 10 years ago after the G20 summit in London, when leaders committed “not to repeat the historic mis­takes of protectionism of previous eras … and refrain from raising new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services”.

Sign of the times

The mere fact that the Japanese G20 hosts were able to secure a unanimous communiqué—of any kind—on trade is a tangible victory for the diplo­­macy and prepara­tion of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration.

This will further burnish Japan’s global repu­ta­tion which, The FutureBrand Country Index 2019 says, is the best in the world.

The index measures and ranks the strength of perception about the reputation of the World Bank’s top 75 countries. Japan is, of course, famed for its quality of service, rich culture and exquisite food. Beyond that, the burgeoning growth in visitors from abroad suggests that numerous facets of Japan chime favourably with the choices and beliefs held by an increasing number of people in the global community about lifestyles, values, the environment and technology.

The UK, meanwhile, has slipped a number of places down the ranking to 19th. The report suggests that divisive politics have harmed the UK’s popu­larity, despite it being “among the most advanced, democratic and diverse countries in the world”. The optimists among us, however, should take heart from FutureBrand’s chief strategy officer, who indicated that brands and businesses have an opportunity to shape the value system, taking “country-making” into their own hands and ensuring that investment and tourism flourish in the future. As active participants in the UK–Japan business relationship, the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan and its members have an important role to play.

UK leadership

Notwithstanding the headwinds, it is right and proper that the UK continues to be a power­ful advo­cate for solutions to the challenges that stalk the inter­na­tional community. Combatting climate change, for example, is a field in which the UK continues to show strong leadership, with its target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 passed into domestic law this month. Welcomed widely by business leaders, climate change experts and environmen­talists, this makes the UK the first G7 country to legi­slate to end its contribution to climate change.

In combination with its domestic initiatives, the UK remains a strong advocate for interna­tional cooperation, as evidenced by its joint bid with Italy to co-host COP26, next year’s UN Climate Summit. It will be the largest-ever gathering of world leaders to drive progress towards the goals set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

With its leading concentration of scientific, civil society and business expertise on climate change, the UK is well placed to help develop the programme and objectives for the summit—ready, as always, to engage with its partners on the world stage in pursuit of our shared interests and future.