Institute of Directors Japan Business Group Symposium for UK and Japanese Business and Trade Leaders

Senior business leaders and political figures from the UK and Japan attended the inaugural Japan-UK Symposium on Monday 24 April at Japan House on Kensington High Street, organised by the Institute of Directors’ (IoD) Japan Business Group in partnership with the Embassy of Japan, the Department of International Trade, Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (JCCI), Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), Japan Society, Japan Exchange Group (JPX), Shimadzu UK Ltd and others.

Speakers include The Rt Hon Nigel Huddleston MP, Minister of State for International Trade; the Rt Hon Greg Clark, MP Trade Envoy to Japan; the Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, Minister of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office; Rajesh Agrawal, Deputy Mayor of London for Business; and His Excellency Hajime Hayashi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the UK.

The speakers reflected on the importance of the UK-Japan trade relationship, valued at over GBP26 billion in 2022, and discussed topics of importance in the bilateral relationship, including innovation, technology, education, culture, and security cooperation.

“Today is all about creating a forum for Japanese and British businesses to connect, exchange ideas, and ultimately increase business. The UK jumped up the world's ranking to become the second most attractive country for SMEs, and it supports innovation and investment in the UK.”
Dr Indranil Nath
Fellow and Chair of the IoD Japan Business Group

The October 2020 UK-Japan trade deal – the Comprehensive Economic Partnership – is one of the bright spots in the UK’s post-Brexit network of expanded trade relationships and was a priority for the British government. The impact is already being felt, with bilateral trade increasing by 8% between 2021 and 2022.

“The UK joining the CPTPP is ‘encouraging’ and does bring a benefit. Being in the bloc includes a boost in the service sector, by UK firms not being required to establish a local office or be a resident to supply a service, meaning they will be on a par with local firms. The joint signing of the Free Trade Agreement between the two countries marks a new era in British-Japanese relations, ensuring a closer alliance of two like-minded democracies committed to free trade and prosperity.”
Rie Hamaguchi
Vice Chair of the IoD Japan Business Group

As the Japanese often note, the geographical distance between Japan and the UK is similar. Proud island nations governed by two of the oldest continuous hereditary monarchies in human history. Countries that pioneered innovations – industrial, financial, technological, digital, and cultural – that would spread rapidly and change the world we live in. At a time when HS2 dominated the headlines for all the wrong reasons, it is consoling to recall that it was British skills, engineering and technology that the Japanese adopted when they decided to invest in railways in 1872.

Both countries regularly feature high-up in the global rankings of soft power influence, reflecting strong and abiding cultural exports in sport, music, entertainment, and technology. Perhaps more than they might like to admit, both nations are prone to what the Japanese call shimaguni konjo, or island nation spirit.

And both countries understand that to remain globally competitive in the 21st century, it is not enough simply to protect the achievements of the past. These are the answers to many of the challenges we face today. Ageing societies, uneven regional development, climate change emergency and the energy transition can only be addressed through a relentless focus on research and development of new technologies in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, energy storage, and digital commerce. Our long history of commercial ties provides a well-established basis to build on to respond to some of these challenges and the opportunities they bring.

The article was contributed by Tim Stanley, Ambassador and member of the leadership team, IoD Japan Business Group, and Dr Indranil Nath, Chair of the IoD Japan Business Group

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