February 07, 2017

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A 150-year relationship grows stronger

Toshiro Suzuki, Ambassador of Japan to Denmark

A century and a half have passed since Denmark and Japan signed a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation, which formally established diplomatic relations between both countries.

“From the signing of the friendship treaty on Jan. 12, 1867, our bonds have evolved with the shared determination to benefit our two countries and our peoples,” said Freddy Svane, Denmark’s ambassador to Japan. “The treaty of 1867 was — by modern standards — a free-trade agreement. Trade and navigation have always been a vital part of our friendship.”

“Over the next 150 years, we have developed a good political and economic relationship with each other,” explained Toshiro Suzuki, Japan’s newly appointed ambassador to Denmark. “Denmark is a small country in comparison to Japan, but highly noteworthy. We had state-to-state relations with Denmark even before the Meiji Era began.

“As with any milestone anniversary, this is a good opportunity to strengthen relations, with a lot of events planned to enhance our understanding of each other’s cultures,” he added. “This is a good chance to get to know each other better.”

This week will mark the first of many state visits planned by both countries this year, as the Danish Minister for Culture Mette Bock arrived in Tokyo for a number of cultural events — including the opening of the Skagen paintings exhibition at the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo.

Mette Bock, Denmark‘s Minister of Culture

“I am looking forward very much to this visit to Japan to meet with a number of partners to further strengthen our cooperation,” she said. “Both countries have proud traditions and values, and we are also constantly looking for cooperation and inspiration to do our very best to creatively rethink the future.

“I will be looking forward to discussing how we can help institutions and new talented artists gain a foothold in the growing cultural market both in Denmark and Japan,” Bock continued.

The two countries continue to see mutual growth in bilateral trade. Danish imports from Japan grew by 15.6 percent from 2014 to 2015, while Danish exports to Japan grew by 9.2 percent over the same period. Denmark’s major exports to Japan are in the pharmaceutical (41 percent), agriculture and food (33 percent) and maritime transport (12 percent) sectors.

“Exports of pharmaceutical products have more than doubled since 2009,” said Ida Sofie Jensen, CEO of the Danish Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry. “It is Denmark’s largest export commodity and Japan remains one of our most important markets.”

The Danish agricultural sector is among the most efficient and knowledge based in the world. Denmark has taken the lead when it comes to food quality, safety and new agricultural products, including organic food production in which Denmark is a leader.

“Danish-Japanese relations in the agriculture and food sector go back centuries, and remain strong,” said Karen Haekkerup, CEO of the Danish Agriculture & Food Council. “Japan is the second-most important export market outside the EU for the Danish agriculture and food sector, and 40 percent of total Danish exports to Japan are in the agriculture and food cluster.

“Denmark is a major supplier of pork to the Japanese food industry,” she added. “Japanese customers demand extremely high standards for quality and food safety.”

And with Denmark’s lengthy coastline, which includes the Faroe Islands and Greenland in the Atlantic Ocean, its fishery sector plays a strong traditional role in Denmark. Today, 95 percent of Danish fish is exported to markets around the world, including Japan.

Freddy Svane, Ambassador of Denmark to Japan

Likewise, the centuries-old Danish maritime industry continues to maintain robust relations with Japan. “We have a long tradition of working with Japanese trading houses, shipyards and shipowners,” said Anne Steffensen, CEO of the Danish Shipowners’ Association. “336 of our 1,800-strong Danish fleet were built in Japanese shipyards. Currently, a further 12 are under construction in Japan, and we have 500 calls a year to Japanese ports.”

“Japan is at the top of the value chain of shipping,” says Andreas Nordseth, director general of the Danish Maritime Authority. “We share the same goals, policies and commitment to quality shipping. The Japanese are strong supporters of the International Maritime Organization. We appreciate this, and we expect to work with Japan in enforcing new environmental regulations.”

Further cooperation and investment is on the rise after the strategic partnership agreement was signed between both countries in 2014. A forthcoming free trade agreement (FTA) between Europe and Japan is further expected to strengthen trade ties.

“The Denmark-Japan Strategic Partnership is a priority of the current government,” said Anders Samuelsen of Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “It provides a framework for further cooperation in a number of sectors and fields such as food and agriculture, sustainable energy and green tech, health, welfare, technology and defense.” “The relationship is strong, and getting stronger,” he continued. “We are very interested in the planned FTA between the EU and Japan, and we hope this is completed this year to encourage further trade and exports.”

“The 150-year anniversary between Japan and Denmark this year is an important milestone, not least in today’s very challenging and complex environment,” said Svane.

“However, just to celebrate it is not enough,” he concluded. “We must and will look beyond. I am very confident that we will see our relationship move to an even more strategic level. International cooperation is needed more than ever. This encompasses politics, trade, culture, education and human-to-human exchange.”

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