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Vertice tra UE e Giappone per una risposta congiunta al Covid-19

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Il 26 maggio, la Presidente della Commissione europea, Ursula von der Leyen e il Presidente del Consiglio europeo, Charles Michel, hanno tenuto una videoconferenza con il Primo ministro giapponese Shinzō Abe. I leader hanno affrontato la questione della risposta alla pandemia da Covid-19 evidenziando l’importanza della solidarietà globale, della cooperazione e del multilateralismo e hanno convenuto sulla necessità di trarre insegnamenti dall’attuale situazione globale al fine di prevenire future pandemie nonché i loro effetti. “Il nostro incontro invia due messaggi importanti: in primo luogo il partenariato UE-Giappone è molto forte e vivace. E in secondo luogo, stiamo lavorando molto duramente insieme per affrontare questa crisi COVID-19” queste le parole del Presidente del Consiglio europeo, Charles Michel.

L’impegno congiunto

Il Giappone è uno dei partner più affini dell’Unione europea. Il partenariato strategico UE-Giappone si basa su una cooperazione di lunga durata, valori e principi condivisi come la democrazia, lo stato di diritto, i diritti umani, il buon governo, il multilateralismo e le economie di mercato aperte. Ai sensi dell’accordo di partenariato strategico, l’UE e il Giappone stanno rafforzando le loro relazioni in una vasta gamma di settori, dalla cooperazione politica rafforzata al commercio e agli investimenti, dallo sviluppo alla trasformazione digitale, dall’azione per il clima alla ricerca e innovazione, e dalla cooperazione in materia di sicurezza alla crescita sostenibile.

Il 26 maggio, la Presidente della Commissione europea, Ursula von der Leyen, il Presidente del Consiglio europeo Charles Michel ed il Primo Ministro giapponese Shinzō Abe, in videoconferenza, facendo leva sull’iniziativa dell’Unione europea che recentemente ha riscosso molto successo, quella della “Risposta globale al coronavirus” avviata il 4 maggio, hanno ribadito il loro impegno per la collaborazione globale nell’ambito dell’emergenza attuale, sostenendo finanziamenti per lo sviluppo e l’implementazione di efficaci medicinali antivirali, strumenti per la diagnostica, trattamenti e vaccini, al fine di renderli disponibili a tutti ad un prezzo accessibile. I leader hanno confermato che sia il Giappone che l’UE sono impegnati per frenare la diffusione della pandemia da Covid-19, proteggere le vite e mitigare le conseguenze sociali ed economiche, in linea con i loro principi e valori democratici, i diritti umani, lo stato di diritto e il principio di non discriminazione. Al fine di prevenire future pandemie, i leader hanno sottolineato l’importanza di rafforzare le capacità di preparazione e risposta, di condividere le informazioni in modo libero, trasparente e rapido e di migliorare la risposta internazionale anche attraverso organizzazioni internazionali pertinenti, come l’OMS, attingendo insegnamenti tratti dalle attuali risposte globali. Durante la videoconferenza è stato ribadito il ruolo dell’OMS nel coordinare la lotta contro la pandemia di Covid-19 ed è stato accolta con favore la risoluzione recentemente adottata in occasione della 73a Assemblea mondiale dell’Organizzazione che ha richiesto al Direttore generale di avviare, al più presto, un processo graduale di valutazione imparziale, indipendente e completa per rivedere l’esperienza acquisita e le lezioni apprese nell’ambito della risposta sanitaria coordinata ed internazionale al COVID-19.

Cooperazione e multilateralismo

Illustrando l’impegno congiunto dell’UE e del Giappone per accelerare la cooperazione in materia di ricerca, il Commissario europeo per l’innovazione, la ricerca, la cultura, l’istruzione e la gioventù, Mariya Gabriel e il Ministro dello giapponese per la politica scientifica e tecnologica, Naokazu Takemoto, hanno firmato a margine della videoconferenza, una lettera di intenti sul rafforzamento della cooperazione scientifica, tecnologica e innovativa. L’intesa include la collaborazione tra il programma giapponese di ricerca e sviluppo “Moonshot” e il programma “Horizon Europe” dell’UE. Giappone e Unione europea stanno promuovendo il coordinamento globale in vari consessi internazionali come il G7, il G20 e il sistema delle Nazioni Unite e sono impegnati ad assistere i paesi vulnerabili e le comunità bisognose.

I Presidenti von der Leyen e Michel e il Primo Ministro giapponese Abe hanno sottolineato altresì la loro determinazione a garantire una solida ripresa economica ed a ricostruire economie più sostenibili, inclusive e resilienti, in linea con l’Agenda 2030, gli obiettivi di sviluppo sostenibile e l’accordo di Parigi. I leader hanno poi sottolineato la necessità di assistere i paesi in via di sviluppo nella loro risposta al coronavirus, ad esempio attraverso il pacchetto di sostegno “Team Europe” di oltre 20 miliardi di euro. Al centro delle discussioni vi sono state anche le conseguenze geopolitiche della pandemia da coronavirus ed è stato ribadito l’impegno a sostenere l’ordine internazionale basato sul diritto e a rafforzare la cooperazione in settori quali la sicurezza informatica, la lotta alle minacce ibride e l’antiterrorismo. I leader hanno poi condiviso la preoccupazione che la diffusione del virus possa intensificare alcuni conflitti regionali e rendere più difficile la protezione della popolazione civile. Pertanto, hanno sostenuto la richiesta del Segretario Generale delle Nazioni Unite per un cessate il fuoco globale nell’ambito della pandemia di COVID-19 e hanno insistito sul rispetto dei principi umanitari. Continue reading “Vertice tra UE e Giappone per una risposta congiunta al Covid-19” »

WTO boss hails Japan for TPP determination, leadership

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The chief of the World Trade Organization has heaped praise on Japan for its leadership role in forging ahead with the Trans-Pacific Partnership even after the United States quit the free trade pact. “Any movement that goes in the direction of trade liberalization or the reduction of distortions in global trade is a good movement, and I’m supportive of that”, Roberto Azevedo said in an exclusive interview with The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo on May 22. “If Japan were not doing anything, I doubt that this initiative would still be moving forward”, the director-general of the WTO stated. “I think there are not many countries in the world that can lead, that can drive forces, that can mobilize forces in the direction that we need at this point in time. Japan is one of those countries”.

 

Saudi Arabia toward the economic diversification

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In the past few weeks, Saudi Arabia has been at the centre of intense diplomatic activities, mainly directed to make significant economic deals. It is not a coincidence that some of the actors involved are the three biggest world economies: The United States, China and Japan. Indeed, while King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has taken a six-week trip in Asia, His Energy Minister Khalid-Al Falin headed for in Washington, to meet the US President Trump at the White House.

Such an intense effort goes beyond the normal diplomatic relations, especially given that the King’s visit in Japan has been the first visit to the country by a monarch of the Middle East oil-rich countries in the past fifty years. So, what is behind this busy agenda? First and foremost, oil. For decades, the vast availability of oil combined with the harsh regulations imposed by the monarchy -which did not encourage foreign companies entering Saudi markets-  have made oil the country’s one and only source of income.

However, the recent drop in oil price has been worrying the oil-rich monarchy. IMF projection for Saudi economic growth is not more encouraging, sharply foreseeing a drop from 2% to 0.4% this year. Hence, Saudi Arabia is exploring alternative economic paths, which include attracting foreign capitals and developing other industrial sectors. The short-term strategy, indeed, sets investments and infrastructure maintenance, especially electricity and transport networks, as first priorities. In a long-term perspective, “Vision 2030” expresses goals and expectations of the nation, based on three strong pillars: leading role in the Arab and Islamic word, become a global investment powerhouse and become a global hub, thus connecting Asia, Africa and Europe.

Having said that, Saudi effort to diversify its economy is more understandable. However, it is important to analyse also the political implications that these visits and commercial agreements may have.

Let’s start with Japan, the first trip of King Salman. As mentioned above, the Saudi King arrival in the Asian island is not an ordinary event, though the Kingdom is the largest provider of oil export and the two countries have friendly relationships. But this time King Salman has decided to travel all the way to the East and meet the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two leaders, then, agreed and signed the “Saudi-Japan Vision 2030”, a governmental project that aims to enhance the cooperation between the two countries.

By developing this project, Saudi Arabia and Japan will become equal strategic partners and Japanese companies will be given a designated zone in Saudi Arabia to allow fluid entry into the country, thus facilitating the economic partnership. The developmental projects outlined in the document include both government-related and private sector ones.

Notable names emerge with the private projects. Toyota is opting to produce cars and components in Saudi Arabia; Toyobo will cooperate in technological developments of desalination plants and several banks -i.e. Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Bank- will be promoting investments in the Kingdom, while Softbank Group is planning to create investment funds worth 25$ billion for technological investments.

Therefore, Japan raises as a key actor to diversify Saudi Arabian economy. However, there are also political reasons behind this stronger partnership. The Japanese government is trying to contribute to Saudi Arabia political and economic stability, which is a fundamental factor to maintain the stability in the region. The competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran for the leadership in the Middle East has been deteriorating security and stability in the area for a long time. Japan has friendly relations with both countries and welcomes a productive dialogue between the two powers. Helping Saudi Arabia to strengthen its economy is indeed essential to maintain some balance between the two nations, also given that the relationship with the US -traditional ally and a core pillar of Saudi foreign policy- has recently gone through a hard time.

Moving forward, or better said westwards, King Salman reached China, the world’s second-largest oil consumer as well as the third largest economy. Similarly, as for Japan, the Sunni monarchy is the primary source of China’s energy demand. The two countries have sharply deepened their relationship by signing up to 65$ billion economic and trade deals. Within this framework, the countries are promoting manufacturing and energy sectors, included downstream oil opportunities. Moreover, the deals include a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the oil firm Saudi Aramco and China North Industries Group Corp (Norinco) to look into the construction of refining and chemical plants in China. Meanwhile, Sinopec and Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) agreed upon the development of petrochemical projects both in China and Saudi Arabia.

The stronger economic relationship comes as mutually beneficial for the countries. On the one hand, Saudi Arabia may see new trade opportunities in sectors other than oil, while confirming his position as key energy partner for China; on the other, China can benefit from further Saudi investments in its markets but also for the kingdom’s strategic location in the Middle East. Indeed, Saudi political, religious and economic influence in the region is a key factor for the Chinese “One belt, one road” initiative, that aims to build connectivity and cooperation between Eurasia and China.

However, Saudi Arabia also has its strategic advantages. From a security perspective, Saudi Arabia has always strongly relied on the US and its military presence in the Gulf. However, under Obama’s administration concerns and disappointments arose, as the US failed to show a firm determination in dealing with Iranian attempts to further develop its nuclear capabilities, thus jeopardising the stability of the region. In the past, China has refrained from interfering in the Middle East issues, trying to keep a neutral position between the two rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran and stressing the importance of close consultation. Some changes occurred, though.

In 2016, China backed Bashar al-Assad, offering its military cooperation and supported Yemen’s government against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels (A Saudi-led military coalition supports Yemen’s government). Lastly, the Chinese government signed an agreement to set the first factory for Chinese hunter-killer aerial drones in Saudi Arabia, first in the Middle East.

Is China going to replace the US in the Middle East? Perhaps it is still too early to make such an assumption, especially given the new development in Syria. However, it seems that China may and would like to play a more influential role in promoting security and stability in the region, having all the means (military and economic) to do it.

And here comes the third core piece of this puzzle: The United States. As mentioned above, Obama administration has seriously challenged the relationship between the West power and the Saudi monarchy. The major issue was the multilateral nuclear deal signed with Iran, which allowed Iran to sell its vast oil supplies more freely and solicit investment in its energy industry, increasing competition with top oil exporter Saudi Arabia. However, the new presidency has made clear its approach toward Iran, by immediately imposing additional sanctions on entities involved in the nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia visit to Washington seems to open a new phase in US-Saudi relations. While the King was busy in Asia, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih and the Deputy Crowne Prince Mohammed bin Salman met President Donald Trump at the White House. As Saudi minister pointed out, US-Saudi relationship is one of the most central to global stability and now seems to be better than ever. Indeed, the two countries again align on all the major issues, such as confronting Iranian aggression and fighting ISIS, but also enjoy the benefit of a closer personal bond between his royal highness, the Deputy Crown Prince and President Trump.

At the economic level, new investment programs are focused on energy, industry, infrastructure and technology. According to the Financial Times, Saudi Arabia is interested in investing up to $200 billion in US infrastructure, which is a core pillar of Trump’s agenda. As Falih explains, “The infrastructure program of President Trump and his administration is something that we’re interested in because it broadens our portfolio and it opens a new channel for secure, low-risk yet healthy return investments that we seek”.

These are only some of the economic negotiations and deals that Saudi Arabia is currently conducting, but they help to understand the new economic course of the country. They represent, indeed, a “Plan B” against the drop of oil revenue and the chance to reinforce and diversify the economic capabilities of the country, which can rely on resources other than oil, such as phosphate, gold, uranium and other minerals. Developing new sectors will also attract foreign investments and create new job opportunities for a young and ambitious local population.

One of the risks of such a massive network of economic deals is the reaction that other partners may have to commitments taken with other countries. As known, commercial arrangements have political consequences and impacts. Therefore, one of the main challenges for Saudi leaders will be to pursue its economic goals, while balancing its position toward all his major allies and friend nations, especially when some of its partners are not the best friends ever.

An obvious example is China. Despite years of lack of interest for Middle East issues, China is now trying to play a bigger role in the region, as the support in Yemen and Syria but also the Chinese warship tour in the Arab Gulf (January 2017) prove. Saudi Arabia welcomes this kind of assistance, as it can help to reduce Iran’s influence in the region. However, it is important not to upset a key and historical ally, the United States. As the new administration has shown a different approach toward the main regional issues -Syria and Iran- it might be a strategic mistake to bond too closely to the new player. Indeed, this might give the impression that a new guarantor of security in the Middle East has replaced the United States, a change that President Trump may not be entirely happy with.

In conclusion, the diversification of Saudi Arabia’s economy is a smart and necessary move to make. However, it goes beyond the economic sphere, as it also shapes Saudi political posture, as a regional power but also among the biggest foreign nations involved in the Middle East political struggle. It appears that the country is trying to bond closer ties with all those powers that have more interests -but also economic and military capabilities- influencing the stability and security of the region, thus trying to get the strongest support possible against its main rival, Iran. China and USA are on the spot but do not forget Russia, which has developed bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia in the past few years and has strong political and strategic interests in the Middle East. Lastly, a key factor will be the development of the Syrian war, especially after the US Tomahawk missile strike on an air base in Syria, very well welcomed by Riyadh.

It is likely that the future economic strategy of the Kingdom will follow the political and strategic needs of the country, confirming once again the strong interrelation between economic and political dimensions, but also the importance of a robust and independent economy to maintain an influential and leading role in the region.

 

Paola Fratantoni

Asian Productivity Organization (APO): Iran makes progress in industrial-scale productivity

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Secretary General of Asian Productivity Organization (APO) Santi Kanoktanaporn announced here on Monday that plans are underway to turn Tehran into productivity hub. APO is a regional and inter-governmental organization which was founded in 1961 by participation of eight countries of China, India, Japan, Nepal, Pakistan, South Korea, Philippines and Thailand and now has 19 members. Aim of APO is to participate in economic-social development of member-states and improve life quality for their people through promotion of productivity with reciprocal cooperation morale among the member-states. Membership in APO is permitted for all Asia-Pacific states which are members of the UN–ESCAP. The 59th meeting of APO board of governors kicked off and it will last three days in Tehran. Sustainable productivity is the main subject of this meeting in Tehran.

North Korea launches a warning to Trump and Xi Jinping

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A few hours before the summit between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese equivalent Xi Jinping, in Florida, the North Korean leader has ordered the launch of a KN-15 medium-range which missile which concluded its trajectory in the Sea of ​​Japan waters, after a short flight of about 60 kilometers.

South Korea strongly condemned the new provocation of Pyongyang, and the US Defense Secretary, Rex Tillerson, coldly addressed the episode: “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.” The most decisive response came instead from Tokyo, speaking through Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga: “Japan can never tolerate North Korea’s repeated provocative actions. The government strictly protested and strongly condemned it. “

After five nuclear tests, two of which were conducted in 2016, today’s launch has renewed fears of the international community on the North Korean missile program. Pyongynag is still far from the objective of realizing a long-range warhead that can deliver a nuclear weapon on American soil , but analysts have speculated that the KN-15 missile was propelled by a solid propellant, easy to handle and transport, which would increase the striking capacity of the Asian regime.

The show of force occurs in the aftermath of two events that Pyongyang interpreted as serious threats. In recent days, Trump launched its warning: if China decides not to cooperate in containing the inconvenient regional ally, the US is ready to act alone against the enemy. At the same time, a joint military drill between the US, Japan and South Korea, which Pyongyang sees as a rehearsal for a possible invasion, just came to an end.

According to a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry, the actions of enemy powers are bringing the Asian Peninsula on “brink of war”.

The current crisis, which undoubtedly will be the focus of talks between Trump and Jinping, was preceded, in February, by the launch of four ballistic missiles by North Koreans who have fallen close to the Japanese coast, and from an SLBM ( Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile) launch system test that would allow Pyongyang to bring its warheads into enemy waters and have an unprecedented second-strike capability, in case of destruction of its terrestrial arsenal. However, this hypothesis, according to analysts, is currently only theoretical and years will occour before Kim Jong Un will be able to rely on such an offensive capability.

In an increasingly overheated scenario, the Chinese government try to throw water on the fire. On the eve of Jinping and Trump summit, at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, owned by the US president, a spokesman for the Beijing Foreign Ministry has denied any link between the North Korean missile launch and the meeting between the two powers, urging all actors involved to avoid any further escalation.

China, at this moment, seems to be the only force able to put a stop to the conflict between Pyongyang and its many enemies.

Emperor of Japan receives King Salman

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During his visit to Japan King Salman received a Daisy High Medal from Emperor Akihito of Japan in appreciation of his role as “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques”. The Emperor also hosted a special luncheon in honor of King Salman, who also met on Monday Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two talked on ways to strengthen strategic and economic bilateral ties and the two sides also agreed to launch a study on setting up special economic zones in Saudi Arabia to attract Japanese investments by easing regulations and customs procedures. King Salman’s nex stop will be China, where he will be from Wednesday.

 

Abe and Saudi King Salman have signed economic cooperation of oil

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz on Monday signed a document regarding cooperation to help end the Saudi Arabian economy’s dependence on oil. The two leaders also agreed to cooperate for the stability of the Middle East, calling each other “strategic partners” during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office. The document for cooperation lists nine priority areas for diversifying the Saudi Arabian economy, such as the entertainment and media industries, and infrastructure.

King Salman arrives in Japan, the visit aims to strengthen relations with the Kingdom

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Today King Salman arrived in Japan, the fourth country of his tour in Asia which started on February 26, and he was received at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo by Crown Prince Nahurito of Japan, Saudi Ambassador to Japan Al-Barrak and officials of the saudi embassy. His tour is the first by a Saudi king since 1971 when King Faisal visited Japan. During the visit Japan aims to strengthen relations with the Kingdom, which is Japan’s largest provider of oil exports, and to try to diversify its economy, including ways to increase japanese investments in non-energy sectors. Moreover the discussion will also focus on bilateral and regional issues, conflicts in the Middle East, Saudi.Japanese cooperation and commercial partnership, with a special reference to Saudi Aramco IPO.

North Korea has fired four ballistic missiles in Japanese-controlled waters

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North Korea has fired four ballistic missiles, with at least three landing in Japanese-controlled waters, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has told his parliament. “North Korea today fired four ballistic missiles almost simultaneously, and they flew some 1,000 kilometers”, Abe said on March 6. He said three of them landed in the sea area of Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The South Korean military said that ‘several missiles’ were fired into the Sea of Japan. It said South Korea and the United States were analyzing flight data to ascertain further details

North Korea conducted a missile test today landed in the waters between Japan and South Korea

North Korea conducted a missile test today, according to the South Korean government the rocket launched from the city of Banghyon, certainly there is only that the missile landed in the waters between Japan and South Korea. The reactions of Seoul and Tokyo have been very strong, both prime ministers have spoken of “unacceptable action” on the topic is also addressed by President Trump who assured full support to Japan, speaking before the press conference of Prime Minister Abe who is visiting the United States. According to analysts of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul the test has been done by the North Koreans with the objective to gain further knowledge to develop intercontinental rockets capable of striking the United States.

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