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Toyohisa Kozuki: "The interaction between Japan and Russia in the economic sphere is developing at an unprecedented pace"
Japan's Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador to Russia Toyohisa Kozuka shared topical issues of bilateral relations with EastRussia
- Mr. Kozuki, the World Cup will be remembered not only by the outstanding performance of the Japanese team, which showed a wonderful sport. A representative of the Japanese Imperial House, Princess Hisako Takamado, arrived in Russia for the first time in 102. Japanese fans literally shook the Russian Internet, showing the highest class of decency and accuracy. Do you have any data, how many fans from Japan came to Russia? How was their stay comfortable? How many of them, in your opinion, will want to come back to us?
- As far as I know, about 10 000 Japanese arrived to the World Championship in Russia. Our Embassy even opened temporary offices in four cities in which the Japanese team played (Saransk, Yekaterinburg, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don), to support fans from Japan.
Our team tried, but I must say that the Russian team played very well too. The output in one fourth of the finals is a great result. Congratulations on this success!
I also watched a few matches at the stadium and saw how many Russian fans supported the national team of Japan. And the Japanese fans who came to the World Cup, all as one with enthusiasm spoke about Russian hospitality. I'm sure they returned home with good impressions. Surely, many of them will want to come to Russia again.
2018 year is declared the Cross Year of Japan and Russia. Our peoples have always had a mutual interest, but we still have the potential for its development. The cross-year is designed to reveal this potential to the full. The Football World Cup has intensified our ties, and we will do our best to further develop exchanges, as they are the foundation for deepening trust between our countries.
- The leaders of Japan and Russia in late May opened the Year of Japan in Russia and the Year of Russia in Japan. How do you assess, all together - the World Cup, cultural events, business contacts, mutual visits - how does it affect the development of bilateral Russian-Japanese relations? After all, there are some guidelines, short-term, long-term. How to evaluate the speed and motion vector?
- Prime Minister Abe and President Putin decided to declare 2018 the year as the cross-year year for Japan and Russia - to stimulate exchanges between the two countries in all spheres. I must admit that holding such a Year is my old dream. After all, in order to maximize the potential for the development of our bilateral relations, it is important to intensify exchanges in the widest range of areas, not only in the field of culture or sport, but also in politics, economics, science and education. Numerous activities in various fields will help to realize this potential.
26 May, with the participation of the leaders of the two countries, a solemn opening ceremony took place, which gave an official start to the cross year. The number of events within the Year of Japan has already reached four hundred.
The slogans of the cross year are "There is Japan you do not know" and "There is Russia that you do not know". Japanese-Russian relations have a long history, but so far we do not know much about each other. The desire of the two leaders is that the Cross-Year should serve to further deepen mutual understanding between our peoples. We intend to introduce Russians to the broadest spectrum of Japanese culture.
Many events occur in other areas. First of all, political dialogue is being actively pursued: in May this year, Prime Minister Abe and President Putin held their twenty-first meeting. In July, a "two plus two" meeting was held in Moscow with the participation of foreign ministers and defense ministers of both countries. I also want to note frequent interparliamentary exchanges. So, recently the chairman of the Chamber of Advisers of the Parliament of Japan, Tuichi Date, visited Russia.
The interaction between Japan and Russia in the economic sphere under the leadership of the leaders of the two countries is developing at an unprecedented pace in accordance with the Plan of Cooperation of eight points.
In my opinion, the cross-year has become a kind of stimulus for the dynamic development of our bilateral relations in various fields. Using this momentum, we will work to further strengthen the relations between the two countries.
- The Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Shinzo Abe this year for the third time plans to participate in the Eastern Economic Forum. Actually, it was his offer to meet in Vladivostok once a year to discuss the development of cooperation between our countries, to assess the changes that had taken place. And how do you assess how the climate in the Russian Far East changed with regard to our friends from Japan during this period?
- In September 2016 at the Eastern Economic Forum, Prime Minister Abe called for joint efforts to turn the Far East into an export base for the Asia-Pacific region. Two years have passed since he proposed meeting in Vladivostok once a year for mutual confirmation of the implementation of the eight points.
"Eight points" is the eight-point cooperation plan that Prime Minister Abe presented to President Putin in May of 2016. Since then, cooperation between our countries in the economic sphere is developing confidently on its basis. At the time of the Japanese-Russian summit meeting in May this year, about 130 commercial projects were formed, approximately half of them have already begun specific actions.
The sixth item of this Cooperation Plan is "the development of industry in the Far East, the formation of an export base for the markets of the Asia-Pacific region." In particular, the Government of Japan attaches great importance to cooperation in the following three areas: the development of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in the Far East, the creation of infrastructure for the formation of an export base and the development of energy. Various projects are planned and implemented, directly related to raising the standard of living of Russians.
In addition, several private companies in Japan use preferential systems within the territories of advanced development deployed in the Far East and the free port of Vladivostok. These companies highly appreciate the efforts of the Russian side to attract investment.
We welcome the holding of the first Day of the Japanese investor last December in Vladivostok with the participation of the Deputy Prime Minister of Trutnev, the holding of a seminar on investments in the Far East in March this year in Tokyo, the opening of the Tokyo office of the Agency of the Far East to attract investment and support exports. In addition, in March of this year, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) together with the mentioned Agency and the Development Fund of the Far East and Baikal Region created the Platform for Supporting Japanese Investments in the Far East, which I will discuss later.
I hope that these steps will serve to further intensify information support to Japanese companies and investors on business issues and the operation of various systems in the Far East, will help further the development of cooperation between our countries.
- We observe the frequent visits of Mr. Hiroshige Seko, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan, who is also responsible for the development of economic cooperation with Russia, in the regions of the Russian Federation. I would like to express my admiration for his persistence - he already visited about a dozen regions with his regular point visits. We directly observed how the delegation with him at the head arrived on a working visit to Yakutsk, and the visit fell on the weekend. What can you say about the experience gained as a result of these visits. Did Mr. Saeko share where he liked best?
- Now Japanese-Russian relations are developing dynamically in a wide range of areas under the strong leadership of the leaders of the two countries. Not only economic ties are gaining momentum, but also the development of interregional exchanges.
Indeed, Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Seko, who is also the minister responsible for cooperation with Russia in the economic sphere, has already visited not only Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also Vladivostok, Voronezh, Yekaterinburg, the Yamal Peninsula and the Republic of Sakha. I want to emphasize that this is the first Japanese minister in history who visited so many Russian regions. I also traveled to more 10 cities of Russia together with Mr. Seko or independently, met with more than 20 heads of the subjects of the federation.
Most recently, as you noted, Minister Sako visited the Republic of Sakha - it was in June. According to him, he was delighted with the warm reception, from the opportunity to touch the national character of its inhabitants. In Russia, with its vast territory, each of the regions has its own characteristics, so the subjects of the federation play a very large role in deepening economic and cultural ties with Japan. Such visits to the regions and a dialogue face to face with representatives of the Russian side are of great importance in terms of deepening cooperation between our countries.
As I have already mentioned, more than 130 projects are being promoted between our countries within the framework of the eight-point cooperation plan in different regions of Russia. Visiting various cities, the minister gets acquainted with the projects of Japanese-Russian cooperation, which are carried out in each of the regions. In the Republic of Sakha, Mr. Seko visited a vegetable growing facility in greenhouses, inspected a small smokeless incinerator and other facilities. He thoroughly got acquainted with the progress of these projects, saw everything with his own eyes, and shared his impressions with the leaders of the Japanese government, telling them about the enthusiasm of the representatives of the Japanese and Russian sides, which he felt directly on the ground.
I also intend to visit as many regions as possible during my tenure as Ambassador of Japan to Russia, strengthening our bilateral relations by exchanging opinions with the Russian side.
- The Russian side, obviously, is counting on investments from Japan. Especially in the Far East. Proposals, websites of state bodies, materials of a special agency for attracting investments were translated into Japanese. Mutual business missions are actively underway. At the same time, the real set of projects that are being implemented (if we do not take into account cooperation in the oil and gas sector) obviously does not meet expectations. There are several greenhouse complexes, a medical center, a woodworking enterprise - and that's all. Deficiency in your opinion? Deficiency of good projects? It is hardly worthwhile to assume that Japanese businessmen lack a resource and desire to earn.
- The eight-point Cooperation Plan focuses on the kind of interaction that will enable Russians to actually experience the improvement in living conditions as a result of the use of Japanese technology and experience. This coincides with President Putin's emphasis in his May Decrees on issues related to improving people's living standards, such as increasing life expectancy and improving living conditions.
In the Far East in May, the Hokuto rehabilitation center opened, which, as of June, had already received 462 patient, which is the upper limit of its current capacity, and allowed to feel Japan's high technologies in this area. Also, NEDO and Kyosan Electric Manufacturing conducted practical tests for the introduction of smart traffic signal systems as a measure against traffic jams, which resulted in Moscow confirming the effect of reducing traffic jams by a maximum of 40%, and in Voronezh by 28%. Supply of fresh vegetables grown in greenhouses, built by JGC and Hokkaido Corporation, is being carried out. The production of tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. is forecasted in greenhouses in Khabarovsk. in volume about 1100 tons per year. Various projects are being carried out in other areas, including the construction of wooden houses by Iida Rus, the construction of an engine assembly plant by Mazda and Sollers, the production of wood pellets by Prospect and RFP Group, etc.
Thus, Japan attaches great importance to cooperation in the development of the Russian Far East. The total investment of Japanese companies in the Far East, including the period before the launch of the Cooperation Plan, reached about 14 billion dollars, even if we consider only those projects for which we were able to check the investment amount. I am confident that with the formation of new ones and the development of current projects this figure will increase even more.
On the other hand, representatives of Japanese firms can be told that they are still not getting enough information about the Russian market and companies. Many are concerned about the instability of the legal system and the complex investment procedures. In addition, during the Japanese-Russian business dialogue in May, the Chairman of the Japanese-Russian Committee on Economic Cooperation of the Federation of Economic Organizations of Japan ("Keidanren"), Mr. Asada, noted the importance of improving insufficient infrastructure in the Far East, extending preferences for TOPs, creating a guarantee system for investors, etc. I hope that the Russian government and business representatives will continue to work to improve the investment climate, as well as disseminate information and draw attention to the Russian market.
- Back in April of this year, an agreement was signed to create a platform for supporting Japanese investments in the Far East and the Baikal region. How do you assess these results, and will there still be any tools for strengthening economic cooperation between our countries in the Far East?
- In March of this year, the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) together with the Agency of the Far East for attracting investments and supporting exports and the Development Fund of the Far East and the Baikal Region created the Platform for supporting Japanese investments in the Far East. This platform is aimed at stimulating the investment output of Japanese companies in the Far Eastern territories of the foremost development territories and the free port, it cooperates with Russian authorities, provides consulting and other services to Japanese companies involved in various projects in production, logistics infrastructure, services, e.
This platform was created quite recently, but it has already begun its work: a number of Japanese companies have contracts for the provision of mediation services in the passage of procedures and advice. I hope that this will serve to alleviate the concerns of Japanese firms about investing in the Russian economy and expanding their business presence in the Far East.
The creation of a financial support system for the eight-point cooperation plan is also moving confidently: the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and RFPI have created a joint investment fund for up to 1 billion US dollars. The Government of Japan intends to support the work of private companies in order to further improve cooperation in the economic sphere, primarily in the Far East, which the leaders of our two countries pay great attention to.
- Experience in the energy sector became very interesting: the Japanese state organization NEDO is financing the development of technologies in the Russian Arctic - first in Kamchatka, now in Yakutia (in Tiksi). As a result, effective bilateral cooperation is obtained, as the results of the pilot application of technologies remain in Russia and improve the lives of residents of remote settlements. In this regard, the question is, where does Japan's interest in technology from the Arctic apply? Is it possible to expect replication - the fact that the Japanese side will continue to research, develop in the Russian Arctic?
- Prime Minister Abe in his speech at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum mentioned the interest in Japanese-Russian cooperation in the Arctic, including the Northern Sea Route. I repeat: the focus in the Plan of Cooperation of eight points is given to such an interaction that will allow Russians to actually experience an improvement in living conditions as a result of the application of Japanese technologies and experience. And the Arctic in this sense is no exception: we consider the provision of this region with electricity an extremely important project.
In February of this year, the Japanese Organization for the Development of New Energy and Industrial Technologies (NEDO), the Republic of Sakha and PJSC RusHydro signed a memorandum of cooperation in the framework of a pilot project in the field of energy infrastructure, including the construction of a wind farm in the village of Tiksi in the north of Yakutia, the Japanese companies Takaoka Toko, Komaihaltec, Mitsui and the Russian JSC "Sakhaenergo" signed the memorandum. The pilot project has already started.
Within the framework of this project, the Polar Microgrid System will be built, which will combine existing power generation equipment with wind power plants, diesel generators and energy storage systems. The pilot project will test the technology, designed for stable electricity supplies with a low cost in the Far North. I hope that the practical experiment will be successful and this system will spread in other Russian regions with similar problems.
In addition, Japanese companies have contributed, among other things, to the construction of an LNG plant in Yamal, which began operating in December last year. The Russian side and Japanese companies are also consulting on the project for the LNG transshipment terminal in Kamchatka and the Arctic LNG-2 project.
- Economic cooperation in the territory of the Kurile Islands was called the necessary stage for reaching a peace treaty. How is this cooperation going now? What else, in the opinion of the Japanese side, is it necessary to make the treaty signed in our time?
- The conclusion of a peace treaty by solving the question of the ownership of the four islands is necessary, among other things, for building relations that meet the potential of Japan and Russia as important partners in the APR and as the two great powers of the region. The leaders of our two countries are unanimous in their opinion about the abnormality of the situation in which, seventy years after the Second World War, we have not concluded a peace treaty. During President Putin's visit to Japan at the end of 2016, the two leaders expressed their sincere resolve to resolve the problem of the peace treaty.
On the basis of an agreement at the highest level, a discussion was started on joint economic activities on the four islands. As a priority, five candidate projects were identified: joint cultivation and cultivation of seafood; growing greenhouse vegetables; the development of tours corresponding to the peculiarities of the islands; the introduction of wind energy and measures to compress the volume of debris. Our countries are stepping up work on their speedy implementation in a format that does not damage the legal positions of both sides. We also agreed to send a business mission to the islands, consisting primarily of enterprises participating in projects, to conduct research and consultations in order to concretize the projects.
In addition, work is under way to more freely visit the four islands by their former residents. Last year, for the first time in history, they were able to visit the islands, visit the graves of their ancestors with the help of air transport. This year, 22-23 July, the second such flight was realized.
I am confident that the joint study of the future image of the four islands by the Japanese and Russians through such measures will serve to deepen mutual understanding and trust, will be a great advantage for concluding a peace treaty. Accumulating the experience of frank dialogue on the basis of an approach aimed at the future, we intend to approach step by step the common goal for Japan and Russia - the conclusion of a peace treaty.
- You have increased the validity of multiple visas from three to five years for our businessmen visiting Japan for business negotiations and other commercial purposes. Within five years they can go to Japan at any time on their own business, without having to issue a new visa for this. Are there any other innovations for the visa regime?
- In January last year, the Government of Japan decided to ease the conditions for issuing visas for Russian citizens. This is one of the serious results of President Putin's visit to Japan in 2016. Of particular importance, I think, is the cancellation of the requirement for a guarantee letter from the host country in Japan. Previously, such a letter was required even for tourist trips.
Many of those who have already visited Japan say they want to go there again. We just welcome such a desire, because multiple trips will allow us to see the beauty of Japan at different times of the year. To this end, since January last year, we began issuing multiple-entry visas with a tourist purpose. Having received such a visa, within three years you can visit Japan any time at any time.
The intensification of business contacts between our countries is also an important task. As you correctly noted, we increased from three to five years the validity of multiple visas for businessmen visiting Japan for business negotiations and other commercial purposes. Within five years they can go to Japan at any time on their own business, without having to issue a new visa for this.
Thanks to such measures, the number of trips of Russians to Japan in the past 2017 year increased by 40,8% compared to the year before last, reaching a record amount for all the past time. We see a tendency to increase this year too: the number of visits has increased by more than 25% compared to the same period of the previous year. According to my impressions, many Russians who have visited Japan have very good memories, many feel Japan's sincere sympathy. Indeed, "it is better to see once than hear a hundred times". I hope that in the future even more Russians will be able to visit our country, with their own eyes to see Japan as it is.
The system of issuing visas is steadily changing towards simplification, and I, for my part, also intend to work on intensifying mutual visits of our citizens.