"Japan understands Armenia’s multi-vector policy towards the EU, EEU and Iran", interview with Special Advisor to PM Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet
YEREVAN, MARCH 6, ARMENPRESS. Professor Tomohiko Taniguchi (PhD (national security), Keio University Graduate School of System Design and Management), Special Advisor to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet, is currently in Armenia on a working visit.
Mr. Taniguchi was hosted at the ARMENPRESS Headquarter for an interview on his visit, the Armenian-Japanese relations, boosting investments and economic cooperation between the two countries and about other issues.
Mr. Taniguchi, this is your first visit to Armenia. Which is the main purpose of the visit? We are aware that you are here for also holding a seminar, please tell us about the main ideas of the seminar.
25 long, at the same time short years of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Japan: during this time we have seen a very stable trajectory of changes in Armenia, which have been maximally adapted to the will and desire of the people. And this is something which not every country can do. In this regard I express my respect for the Armenian people, the leaders who have taken the country where it is now. Democracy is an interesting living organism. A man needs 20 years to become mature, whereas generations are required for democracy. I believe the people and the government of Japan are more than ready to walk side by side with Armenia to find the path which is at times tangled but stable. I would like the Japanese to walk parallel with Armenia’s efforts.
I held the seminar with the audience of the diplomatic school of the Armenian ministry of foreign affairs. The participation was rather pleasing. Mainly I spoke about the similarities and differences or the worldview of Armenians and the Japanese. This is a very good experience. And by the way, thank you for hosting me in a symbolic year for your agency, a year marking the 100th anniversary.
Last year Armenia and Japan marked the 25th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations. On this occasion the foreign minister of Armenia had said that the two countries have passed a distinctive path of development in political relations. What do we currently have in bilateral relations, what achievements would you point out?
One of the cornerstones of such bilateral relations was to prepare grounds for future investments, the fact that Armenia and Japan were able to reach the signing of the investment deal, which perhaps will sound like a small step forward, but it was really an important foundation, which will be durable during decades, even centuries.
Mr. Taniguchi, you touched upon the agreement about liberalization, encouragement and mutual protection of investments, which was signed on February 14. Armenia is the first country in the region to have a similar agreement with Japan. What priorities do you see in the foundation of this very agreement for activating investments and economic relations?
It must be formed by mutual visits of representatives of the governments and business communities of the two countries, because we can’t build strong relations without relevant knowledge and awareness. I hope that more representatives of the business community of Japan will visit Armenia. I also find the visa issue to be noteworthy since it has been simplified even more. Visa procedures are now more facilitates than before. Japan is a country which you should think about visiting at least once: in addition, organizing it is more affordable than you think.
We spoke about liberalization of investments, mutual visits of representatives of business communities, nevertheless, what problems does a Japanese businessman face in Armenia, what does he need to make investments in Armenia?
I believe in any case this is an issue in the direction of which both Japan’s and Armenia’s business communities can work and develop. It is important to learn from each other. Obviously Armenia’s population isn’t large, we aren’t talking about India, China, meaning the domestic market of the country is not big. You represent an open and small economy. I think the business community of Japan should also benefit from the fact that more Armenians are living outside of Armenia than inside the country. You have a large Diaspora, and this will give the businessman opportunities which he won’t be able to find elsewhere.
Mr. Taniguchi, which sectors are attractive for the Japanese in terms of developing economic cooperation in your opinion?
You know, especially the elderly citizens of Japan are wealthy and have great savings, and at the same time they are ready to spend it. From this perspective tourism is the best promising sector, which once again Armenia and Japan should develop together. In my opinion the Japanese must be willing to taste Armenian made alcoholic beverages. I also believe that you should present to the Japanese more about Armenia being the initial source, for example of Christianity, winemaking etc. Meaning, the more interesting Armenia is for them, the more Japanese [people] will visit [Armenia]. I know that the Armenian government is investing great amounts in the development of human talent, future industries, which are already close to us. I am speaking about information technologies, artificial intelligence, and taking into account the number of the population it is stunning that you have geniuses, for example in chess or math. I think this talent must be studied by the Japanese.
You mentioned that the Japanese must be willing to taste Armenian made alcoholic drinks, and that Armenia is the cradle of winemaking. Have you tried Armenian wine? What is your opinion on it?
Of course I have, I think it is wonderful.
Mr. Taniguchi, as you know, Armenia is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union. Last year it also signed the comprehensive and enhanced partnership deal with the European Union. Many experts and politicians express opinions about Armenia’s multi-vector policy: Some call it unique, some express opposing opinions sometimes. I would like to know your opinion, what impact will it have on Armenian-Japanese relations?
- I understand that it is the path which Armenia had to take, I mean it had to find this balance. The fact that Armenia signed the agreement with the European Union was an enormous leap, but at the same time I understand that it also has to seek equally good opportunities with Russia, neighboring countries, for example Iran. This is something which is very understandable for Japan.
Interview by Syuzi Muradyan
English –translator/editor: Stepan Kocharyan