Speech by George Vella, Minister for Foreign Affairs during the 'Doing Business with Japan Event' as Part of the 50th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Malta and Japan Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry Friday 20th November 2015

Reference Number:  , Press Release Issue Date: Nov 20, 2015
Ms Vice Minister,

President of the Chamber,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to address this prestigious audience convening today for this event in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Malta and Japan. I wish to thank the Malta Chamber of Commerce for hosting the event and I welcome the Parliamentary Vice Minister Hon. Miki Yamada and the Ambassador of Japan to Malta H.E Kazuyoshi Umemoto who have elected to honour us with their presence.

I must also thank Ambassador André Spiteri for being behind the organisation of this event.

The main objective of this event is to reaffirm our determination to enhance diplomatic relations and strengthen economic cooperation with Japan. Although formal diplomatic relations were established in 1965, relations between the two countries date back more than 100 years. The burial at the Kalkara Naval Cemetery in 1917 of Imperial Japanese Navy officers and men from the torpedoed 'Sakaki' destroyer and the historic visit to Malta by the Crown Prince Hirohito during his first European tour in 1921 are two such historical instances of the Japanese-Maltese connection.

Also of general interest is the success story of the first Maltese trans oceanic migrant to Japan, Ruggiero Inglott, where he was even awarded the Insignia of the Fourth Class of the Order of the Sacred Treasurer from the Japanese Emperor in 1939 for a lifetime of teaching the English language to Japanese students and naval officers.

In these last 50 years, we have seen Japan becoming an economic powerhouse operating within the international legal framework with consistent involvement in multinational organisations. Similarly, Malta too managed to progress in its economic development from a fortress economy with a 150 year tradition of reliance on foreign military forces to a dynamic, modern, future looking free economy reliant on tourism, manufacture, financial services and IT that earned the country the credit to be member of the European Union. Nowadays, both Japan and Malta have grown sagacious of their historical past as they tread the path of democracy, good governance and international dialogue through a globalised system of sustainable and environment-friendly economies linked together by the United Nations, World Trade Organisation and the Asia - Europe configuration.

The multilateral approach to international peace, security and stability remain fundamental in a multi-polar world order, yet it is also crucial to find ways and means to strengthen our bilateral relations even further. I have chosen to approach the theme of this 'Doing Business with Japan' event from a three point perspective aiming at taking relations with Japan to a higher level. These are Outreach, Engagement and Cooperation.

Outreach - The Maltese Government is committed to utilise its diplomatic and commercial network to the maximum of its potential and this means reaching out beyond our Euro-Mediterranean region. The global financial crisis, international terrorism, regional conflict and irregular migration are challenges and concerns that we all have to jointly tackle as an international community because they are characteristically borderless. In contrast, trade and investment are also borderless instruments in support of a strong economic system that generates economic opportunities and creates new jobs. As we witness greater engagement between the EU and Japan with the ongoing negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement, the Framework Agreement and international exchange programmes, we hope for stronger economic growth in both regions. Now, like never before, we need to extend our reach and use all the means at our disposal in order to increase the levels of trade, investment and engagement with countries outside the region - and the potential of growth between our two countries is no exception.

This leads us to the second key point: Engagement. Japan is one of Malta's trading partners mainly due to trade exchanges in high end products like blue fin tuna automobiles and electronics and we are committed to continue sustaining such high levels of trade and also to do our best to improve these figures and find new avenues for a wider product and trade spread. Tourist arrivals, cruise liner passengers and English language students from Japan have also shown a remarkable increase in these last years. Increased and perhaps cheaper air connectivity has resulted in more Maltese nationals travelling farther East to savour and appreciate Japanese history and culture. In order to maximise this potential, it is the aim and determination of this Government to engage in more areas of cooperation with Japan that go beyond the traditional sectors of fisheries and tourism. I am confident that this event is key to deeper engagement in sectors like life sciences, renewable energy, financial services, maritime, aviation as well as e-commerce. The stakeholders in this event will also demonstrate a success story between a Maltese and a Japanese company which can be a benchmark for future cooperation between Japan and Malta. Above all, this event will lead to an increase in mutual awareness and business networking which is an incentive for Maltese entrepreneurs to increase business relations with their Japanese counterparts.

The third and last key point is Cooperation - the building of linkages and bridges between Malta and Japan. Commercial and social links between Maltese and Japanese institutions and organizations could substantially result in an increase in cooperation. On the business level, the Chamber of Commerce with the collaboration of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is launching a ‘Japan Business Committee’ to help its members do business with Japan. On the cultural level, there is also the setting up of the Malta Japan Association to further promote people to people relations. The possibility of other links that can further strengthen relations like the establishment of a Joint Economic and Trade Commission between our respective Ministries for Economy should also be explored. Another initiative that can lead to positive results between our two countries is the establishment of a Parliamentary Friendship Group between the Parliament of Malta and the Japanese Parliament. Town twinning could also be a suitable way how to discover and share diverse cultures, values and traditions that go back thousands of years.

On a final note, the Maltese Government’s pro-business policies and its attitude towards cutting on excessive bureaucracy demonstrate our willingness to support our enterprises to internationalize their operations and to build business relations with Japan. Likewise, we extend our support to Japanese enterprises that want to do business and to make Malta a reliable and trustworthy business partner.

We look forward to the launch of a new era for relations with Japan.

Thank you.