With 162 years of bilateral relations, anchored on the signing of the German-Japanese treaty in January 1861, G7 members Germany and Japan continue to build their friendship on a solid foundation. The initial treaty revolved around a dynamic partnership in the shipping and trade sector, but has since flourished in the political, economic, social, and cultural arenas. As countries bonded by shared fundamental values, Germany and Japan remain steadfast allies in the G7, made stronger by close political dialogue and international cooperation.
In demonstration of these hallmarks of their friendship, HE Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, has already paid two official visits to Japan since his election in December 2021 — the first visit was in April 2022, and the second, less than 12 months after, in March 2023. Points of discussion on both trips included national and global security; multilateral diplomacy amidst growing unrest in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as the Ukraine-Russia crisis; climate protection; economic resilience; among other key issues. “It is no coincidence that my first trip as chancellor to this region has led today here, to Tokyo,” Scholz said on his visit in 2022. “My trip is a clear political signal that Germany and the EU will continue and intensify their engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.” Japan’s PM Fumio Kishida, meanwhile, also emphasized the two countries’ rejection of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In stark contrast, Scholz’s predecessor, Angela Merkel, visited Japan only three times in her 16-year tenure — a shift which has not gone unnoticed on the political landscape. “Now, the situation has changed completely. Chancellor Scholz chose to go to Japan, when he went for the first time to Asia. And this was a big, big signal. The geopolitical situation has changed completely. And for that reason, I think the relationship with Japan is very much important — economically, it is important; but politically, it becomes now much more important, because Japan is a real ally of Germany and we have had a relationship since 1861. And it has always been a good relationship,” Gerhard Wiesheu, a member of the executive board of B. Metzler seel. Sohn & Co. AG, and president of the financial center initiative Frankfurt Main Finance, pointed out. Wiesheu has long held an advisory role to Germany’s chancellors, especially in the area of Germany-Japan relations, and has accompanied Scholz on many of his state visits, as he also did with Merkel.
On the economic front, trade and investment between the two countries remain robust. Germany is the largest European exporter to Japan, while German direct investment in Japan runs in the billions. Picking up after the pandemic, exports between Germany and Japan increased by 14.5% in 2021. Meanwhile, the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, particularly its capital city, remains a vibrant hub for Japanese companies setting up shop in Germany. As Annette Klerks, Head of Düsseldorf’s Department of International Business Service, Office of Economic Development, shared: “With an average of 20 new companies per year between 2010 and 2020, Düsseldorf was able to consolidate its role as the leading business location for Japanese companies in continental Europe. Thanks to its access to Europe’s biggest economic zone, the Rhine-Ruhr region, as well as its unique Japanese infrastructure, Düsseldorf continues to be perfectly suited as a starting point for the German and European activities of Japanese companies.”