Bridges: How has the 70th Anniversary of relations between Japan and Israel benefited both countries and how would you characterize the current state of bilateral relations between the two countries?
Mizushima: Through this anniversary we have witnessed that our relationship has been getting increasingly closer in various fields such as politics, economy, defense and culture based on our shared values in spite of the fact that we are located at two distant ends of Asian continents.
The mutual understanding and warm friendship between our countries is continuously developing with an increasing number of visits by dignitaries over the past 20 years. Since the beginning of this year, some high level visits are realized between Japan and Israel: from Japan, such as the Governor of Aichi Prefecture and a Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for the Middle East Peace ,and from Israel, such as an official Knesset delegation from the Parliamentary Friendship Group, Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Gantz, and Minister of Tourism Razvozov. I am pleased to note that our political relationship is acquiring strategic character.
Bilateral defense exchanges have also been significantly intensified in recent years, especially with the visit to Japan by Minister Gantz at the end of August, wrapping up a security Memorandum between our countries.
Japanese culture is now a part of Israeli life. I was very astonished to see that thousands of youth gathered on the occasion of the annual anime manga and Japan culture convention in March. The enthusiasm for Japanese anime and manga among the young generations supports a good introduction to the Japanese culture, language and the society.
What are some recent milestones in collaboration and exchange shared between both countries?
Our business relations have been flourishing in the last decade, especially following the ministerial mutual visits in 2014-2015, including that of then-Prime Minister ABE, which was accompanied by thirty business delegations in 2015. The number of Japanese companies which operate in Israel has been expanded from 30 in 2014 to 85 in 2021.
Furthermore, in February 2017 Japan and Israel signed an investment agreement in a bid to create stable and transparent conditions for mutual investments. Since then, the direct investment from Japan to Israel has increased, and in 2021 the investment from Japan to Israel reached a record high of approximately 2.9 billion USD, accounting for about 16% of all foreign investment to Israel.
In which areas, particularly in trade are there opportunities for cooperation between both countries?
It has long been said that our economies are complementary; by saying that Israel is good at creating something from zero to one while Japan is good at scaling up and managing it in the global market. That is still true in one sense, but I believe the business relations between the two countries should not stop there. Taking advantage of each other’s strong points, individual businesses of both countries would not only grow further themselves but could also jointly cooperate and tackle the challenges that human beings are now facing with such as environmental concerns, food tech, aging societies, health, IT and so on.
These collaborations have been enhanced under the framework of Japan Israel Innovation Network (JIIN). JIIN is a platform to encourage the public and private sectors in both Japan and Israel to collaborate and further enhance Japan-Israel economic ties. Since its inauguration in 2017, the JIIN has supported a large number of business matching events and other similar efforts.
In March last year both Japanese and Israeli sides confirmed achievements in cooperation in innovations in the areas of digital health, green technology, R&D, as well as cooperation in the areas of cybersecurity and so on.
What can we expect from the Israel – Japan partnership moving forward?
Japan and Israel are two countries that shares the importance of universal values such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. We share the desire to strengthen and deepen our partnership in a wide range of fields in the coming years including business, security and others. This is beneficial not only bilaterally but also globally. I believe that our countries can cooperate and contribute to the global stability and prosperity through addressing global challenges together.
More precisely, we expect to see exchanges of high-level visits, the integration of Israeli technologies into Japanese industry and vice versa, as well as further cooperation in the fields of trade, business, security, academia, culture and of course, tourism. One main common hope is the launching of direct flights between our countries. These direct flights will for sure contribute to the expansion of further economic relations and deepening people-to-people exchanges including tourism. The relationship between the two peoples, in both name and reality, can and should be much closer.