Bridges: With Romania and Japan marking 100 years of close ties in 2021, what does the future hold for this important relationship?
Aurescu: I am confident that a new century of valuable exchanges between Romania and Japan lies ahead of us, as well as closer ties between the Romanian and the Japanese people. This anniversary provides an opportunity to take stock of the history and the milestones of our bilateral relationship, while jointly planning its way forward. Romania and Japan are natural partners and like-minded countries, sharing deep mutual respect for each other, as well as for fundamental values, such as democracy and freedom, which should ground both our bilateral cooperation and our efforts to advance post-crisis recovery and resilience at international level.
The most recent document steering our relationship is the 2013 Declaration for a Renewed Partnership between Romania and Japan, signed by His Excellency Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in his capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs at that time. The eight years that passed since that moment have proven the closeness and compatibility of our approaches: Romania and Japan work in harmony, have similar positions on most regional and global issues, and support and complement each other in various areas. In this vein, we have recently decided to advance our bilateral ties to the level of a Strategic Partnership, which we aim to conclude in the very near future. It will be a framework agreement spanning over four key areas – political ties, strategic cooperation, economic exchanges and cultural/scientific/people-to-people relations – and an ambitious plan for a resilient future.
Our political dialogue is already consistent at various levels, starting at the highest level – the President of Romania attended the enthronement ceremonies of His Majesty the Emperor in October 2019. In addition, in terms of strategic cooperation, both our countries are promoters of peace, both advocate peaceful solutions to tensions in their respective regions (the Black Sea, Ukraine in Romania’s case, and, in the case of Japan, the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Indo-Pacific in general) and both countries actively support the rules-based international order and the international law. Moreover, Romania’s status as NATO member state provides an additional framework for enhancing cooperation in this area, as Japan is a partner country to the Alliance.
I would also like to highlight the good prospects for deepening Romanian-Japanese cooperation in the Indo-Pacific area. Japan boasts a long, successful engagement in the region, promoting its vision of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. The US is also at the forefront of advancing FOIP. The European Union has recently launched its own Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, looking not only to play a more prominent role in a region of growing importance, but also to bring its own contribution in the Indo-Pacific. Along these lines, the new EU Strategy provides important opportunities for engagement with Japan. Thus, Romania, as an EU member state, looks forward to step up efforts of building upon these opportunities; for example, Romania can contribute with expertise in areas such as cyber-security, law of the sea, disaster management and more, while working together with Japan.
The Strategic Partnership between Romania and Japan will also focus on boosting our economic relationship, using a result-oriented approach. We already have promising examples to build upon, the most recent being Europe’s third largest suspended bridge, currently under construction in Romania, over the Danube River. It’s being built with Japanese technology by a consortium of companies from Japan and Italy and it is not only a success story of Romanian-Japanese bilateral cooperation, but also a practical expression of the EU-Japan Connectivity Partnership. The cultural/scientific/people-to-people exchanges, representing the fourth main segment of Romanian-Japanese cooperation, add an important human dimension to our joint efforts and we shall maintain this dynamic, including with the help of new technologies and innovation. For this aim, we are ready to foster enhanced dialogue between Romanians and Japanese at various levels, from start-ups to R&D in specific areas, such as nuclear physics, for instance, at the ELI-NP Centre hosted by Romania.
With increased interest in the Romanian economy, what opportunities do you see for closer Romania-Japan trade and investment ties?
Japan is currently the biggest Asian investor in Romania, while our country has one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union, maintained in spite of the pandemic. Romania’s geographical location by the Black Sea and on the Danube River makes it an ideal gateway to Europe from the East. Thus, over 100 Japanese companies have already chosen our country to do business, generating more than 40,000 jobs, and supporting significant trade levels (USD 633.3 million for the first 9 months of 2021). Nevertheless, these figures are far from the real economic cooperation potential of our countries, which we hope to further translate not only in numbers, but also in added value. We would like to invite, for instance, a major Japanese car manufacturer to build a plant in our country, which already has a positive reputation in this highly competitive market. Another promising field, with good investment potential, is the IT&C sector, where Romania boasts highly qualified human resources, as well as top expertise and globally appreciated performance. Energy production, including the extension of our nuclear capabilities, battery production and energy delivery, could be another point of interest.
I should also mention tourism, our abundance of natural spas – Romania has the largest number of natural mineral water springs in Europe – so, we certainly welcome Japanese tourists to Romania, which, allow me to say, is a stunningly beautiful country. And perhaps our biggest asset is our people, including the younger generation. Romanians are curious by nature, eager to experiment and exercise their creativity, and that is why we have a large number of start-ups continuously generating new ideas. It is towards this generation of young enterprising Romanians, as well as to their equally gifted and proficient Japanese counterparts, that we are aiming our Strategic Partnership. This can be their roadmap to further develop and thrive. So, yes, the future of Romanian-Japanese ties looks very bright!