I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the wonderful contribution that BCCJ ACUMEN has made over the past 13 years to help us tell the story of the UK in Japan. Since its launch in 2009, each British Ambassador—I am the fourth—has been invited to be a regular contributor. So, I am delighted to have been asked to reflect on BCCJ ACUMEN’s contribution to the British community in Japan. From cover to cover the magazine has shown on so many levels the different faces of the UK in Japan, from politics, economy and culture to sport, media, education, trade and community. Through its publications, it has chronicled the way that the relationship between the UK and Japan has developed over this time.
I cannot hope to capture everything that has happened over the past 13 years, but a flick back through all of the BCCJ ACUMEN back copies (and yes, I do have a few!) would testify that the magazine has reported all of the main headlines of our UK–Japan story: the 3/11 earthquake, prime ministerial visits, the visit of HRH Prince William in 2015, the 2019 Rugby World Cup and HRH Prince Charles’s visit for the Emperor’s enthronement in 2019, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Covid-19 pandemic. At the same time, it has published articles on the global challenges that affect us all: climate change, ageing populations, health and so on.
During a recent visit to Tohoku, I spoke at the Yomiuri Business Forum in Sendai about the UK–Japan relationship and made special reference to the strong links between the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) and the Tohoku region. The BCCJ and its members made a tremendous effort to help the people of Tohoku, not only in the immediate aftermath of the devastating 3/11 triple disaster, but also in the years that followed. They have been committed to helping local businesses rebuild their livelihoods through the Back to Business Initiative and held their annual BCCJ Tohoku Week to maintain the links and track progress. A legacy of which the BCCJ ACUMEN community can be proud.
The past two years have been extremely difficult for all of us, as we have grappled with the pandemic and its impact on our lives. And as I write, we face the new horror of everything that is happening in Ukraine, with deeply upsetting and troubling images of the impact on innocent civilians in front of us every day. The situation has been a wake-up call for us about the risks of an unsettled world, and the new stages on which the competition of values, security and economic interests will play out. This makes it more important to remember that we are always stronger when we stand with friends and like-minded partners.
It is also a reminder of why our sustained investment in deepening and broadening our relationship with Japan is so important. The UK and Japan are not only longstanding partners with a rich history, but also modern champions of innovation and shared values. From defence and security to trade and investment, and from sustainability to economic security, we are deepening our cooperation and taking on the big issues affecting the world.
The partnerships made between British and Japanese businesses are vital to our nations’ economic wellbeing. Alongside their positive economic contribution, British firms in Japan are at the forefront of relationship building. Added to the cultural links we continue to make through the work of the British Council, we have great means at our disposal to deepen our ties and strengthen our shared national interest.
The BCCJ plays a vital role in bringing people together and strengthening the business ties between the UK and Japan and supporting their interests. The trading relationship between the UK and Japan has grown from strength to strength.
ACUMEN served to spread the word about the whole range of high-quality British goods and services available in Japan, as well as the way our love of Japanese and British food is growing in our respective countries. I make it a habit to try to serve food from, or at least representing, the UK’s four nations for our guests at the Residence. I am delighted to see products such as English sparkling wine, Northern Irish gin, Scottish salmon and Welsh lamb are being enjoyed by more and more people in Japan.
From 2010 to 2019, the value of the UK’s trade with Japan grew from £18bn to £24bn, faster than that with many of our other major trading partners. The UK–Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement—or the UK–Japan free trade agreement—which was signed in October 2020 and expands on the EU–Japan Economic Partnership Agreement of 2019, will help many key industries to grow and help more and more firms to introduce their diverse brands in Japan. It has also paved the way for the UK to apply to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which should further facilitate and expand export opportunities for UK firms.
We are in a landmark year, celebrating Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The British Embassy Tokyo, Consulate General in Osaka and British Council in Japan are marking this momentous year in a variety of ways. They include planting trees as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy initiative; holding a community-based Big Lunch, when we open the British Embassy Tokyo compound to the public for our 150th anniversary on this site; and a competition to find a Platinum Cake that is “fit for a queen”, which will be served at our Platinum Jubilee Queen’s Birthday Party in June. Over the coming months, I’m looking forward to these celebratory moments that will reflect the dedication, respect and values embodied in Her Majesty’s lifetime of public service, and amplify the positive spirit and firm foundations on which the UK and Japan’s relationship is built.
Many things have changed since BCCJ ACUMEN was started, but the importance of the chamber’s role certainly hasn’t. I believe that it is as important as ever—especially as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic—to bring together businesspeople from all walks of life to champion our values and portray the diverse faces of the UK. I would like to thank everyone involved in the creation and success of the magazine over the past 13 years. As the saying goes, as one chapter closes, another one opens. I sincerely hope that the UK–Japan story will continue to be told, and I look forward to continuing to work with the BCCJ to showcase the best of the UK in Japan.
BCCJ ACUMEN, CUSTOM MEDIA AND THE COMPANIES BELOW WISH QUEEN ELIZABETH II A VERY HAPPY PLATINUM JUBILEE AND THANK HER FOR 70 YEARS OF LOYAL SERVICE TO THE UNITED KINGDOM, THE REALMS AND COMMONWEALTH.