Monday, 22 October 2012: Opportunities in Japan
Mr Naoki Ito, Minister (Economic), Embassy of Japan in the UK
The Adam Smith Business School was delighted to host the first lecture of the Europe-Japan Dialogue Lecture Series 2012/2013, which was held on 22nd October 2012, where we welcomed Mr Naoki Ito, Minister (Economics) with the Embassy of Japan in the UK.
After graduating from the University of Tokyo (Law), Mr Ito joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1984. His overseas postings include UK, Myanmar, New York and India. His previous major posts include, among others, Director, Second Southeast Asia Division; Director, North East Asia (Korean Peninsula) Division, Director; Aid Policy Planning Division, and Director, Aid Policy and Management Division. In August 2011 he took up his current position with the Embassy of Japan in the UK.
Mr Ito talked about current business prospects in Japan including the growing healthcare market and development of renewable energies, and answered questions from attendees regarding current opportunities.
The Europe-Japan Dialogue public lectures aims to provide an informed forum on Japan for people in Glasgow and beyond. Questions were raised about Japan’s ageing society, energy policy, and export of nuclear power plant technologies overseas. One of the questions was asked by a business person in healthcare products as he realised after listening to the talk that Japan’s ageing society would offer a potential market for his products. After the Q&A, there was informal networking opportunity for the audience to talk to others and to Mr Ito in person.
Mr Ito sees Japan’s rapidly ‘ageing society’ both as a challenge and as an opportunity. It is projected that in 2050 the ratio of 65-year-old or older to the whole population would be 38.8% for Japan, the highest among industrialised countries, followed by Germanys’ 30.9%. The ratio for the UK would be 23.6%. Through ageing process, the population of Japan is declining, but Japan’s market size is stable, and HSBC projected that in 2050, the year when Japan’s elderly occupies nearly 40% of the total population, Japan would be still the 4th largest economy in the world, after China, the US and India. In addition, the ageing society makes Japan the 2nd largest pharmaceutical market and the 3rd largest medical devise market in the world, and the deregulation in these markets are ongoing.
Another challenge-cum-opportunity lies in energy. After the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant in March 2011, the public opinion in Japan has shifted and the government’s recent energy policy reflected this by stating the realisation of society not dependent on nuclear power and the realisation of green energy revolution. In particular, the areas affected by the earthquake are interested in renewables, energy efficiency and health care.
It is not well reported in the UK, but he draws attention to a UK-Japan Joint Statement of ‘A Leading Strategic Partnership for Global Prosperity and Security’ issued when Prime Minister David Cameron visited Japan. There are ongoing economic collaborations between the two countries in the areas of Development in Africa, Civil Nuclear Cooperation, Defence and Security Cooperation, and Infrastructure. UK still remains the most important European partner for Japan, with more than 1,200 Japanese companies operating in the UK, with more than 132,000 employees.