The Slovenia Times

Cerar and Japanese counterpart focus on cooperation potential


During what is the first visit by a Japanese foreign minister to Ljubljana, the pair also exchanged views on developments in Asia, in particular the tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the trade dispute between the US and China, while they also discussed the situation in the Western Balkans.

Cerar and Kono, who first met on the sidelines of this year's Munich Security Conference, agreed to strengthen bilateral relations and economic ties.

"Minister Kono and I agreed that possibilities to increase trade in goods expanded vastly with the entry into force of the economic partnership agreement between the EU and Japan, but also that all the opportunities for cooperation have not been used sufficiently yet," Cerar said today.

The ministers identified the Koper port as one of the opportunities for closer cooperation with Kono telling reporters that the Slovenian port was among the first after the Suez Canal with good access to Central Europe, which made it interesting for Japanese companies.

While no concrete projects were discussed, Kono suggested Slovenia enhanced promotion of its business environment in Japan. His press officer Jun Saito said they welcomed seminars planned for September to inform Japanese businesses about Slovenia.

He said that it took time for Japanese companies to take a decision on cooperation, but once they did they were very loyal and were looking for long-term cooperation.

Trade between the two countries has been fairly modest, with Slovenian exports amounting to EUR 119 million in 2018 and imports to EUR 86 million, which made Japan Slovenia's 32nd largest trade partner. Still, cooperation has intensified in recent years, which is also reflected in increasing Japanese investment in Slovenia.

Economic cooperation was also in focus of a working lunch at which the two foreign ministers were joined by Economy Ministry State Secretary Aleš Cantarutti.

New opportunities for cooperation are emerging in the field of smart networks, proton cancer therapy and electro mobility. Successful cooperation has moreover been established in the field of new physics between Slovenia's Jožef Stefan Institute and Japan's KEK.

On Tuesday, representatives of the Slovenian rehabilitation hospital URI - Soča and of Japan's Toyota Motor Corporation and Fujita Health University signed an agreement on cooperation in the development of medical therapy robots.

Cerar noted that Japan, with its economic and technological development, can serve as model to many countries. He is happy that the Japanese Yaskawa robotics company and Japanese multinational Sumitomo Rubber Industries launched investments in Slovenia when he served as prime minister between 2014 and 2018.

According to Kono, the Japanese companies doing business in Slovenia valued in particular its highly skilled workforce. "Many Japanese companies notice Slovenia because of its qualified labour force in information technology and high technologies."

Yaskawa opened its first European robot factory in the south-eastern town of Kočevje in April, and Cerar and Kono are scheduled to visit it today. Kono has also been received by President Pahor.

Meanwhile, the pair also discussed initiatives for deeper cooperation in the Western Balkans and Cerar thanked his counterpart for Japan's long-standing support for the Slovenian-run ITF demining fund.

Also discussed were the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where the ambassador of the House of Slovenia will be Miro Cerar senior, the winner of a golden medal in gymnastics at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, the Foreign Ministry announced.

The athlete's son, Foreign Minister Cerar, also highlighted today the alley of 300 cherry trees outside the Ljubljana Biology Centre that were given to Slovenia as a present in 1999, which he said was a special symbol of friendship between the two countries.

Pahor's office reported that the Japanese foreign minister thanked the Slovenian president for his decision to attend the enthronement ceremony for Japanese Emperor Naruhito in the autumn.

The office also noted Pahor's working visit to Tokyo in 2013 in what was the first visit by a Slovenian head of state in Japan. On the occasion, he was received by the then Emperor Akihito.

According to the president's office, Pahor and Kono hailed the friendship between the two countries and good political, cultural, economic and scientific links between them. Pahor also welcomed Japanese investment in Slovenia, a country that he said made a suitable gateway to Europe for Japanese businesses.

The Japanese foreign minister is due in Croatia later today for talks on Croatia's stint at the presidency of the EU, and bilateral relations, including economic cooperation, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said, but could not say whether opportunities afforded by Croatian ports would be discussed as well.


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