On Malta-Japan relations and the opening of an embassy in Tokyo

Source: Times of Malta
By Andre Spiteri
Malta’s Ambassador to Japan

Having a presence in the third largest economy of the world is of vital importance for Malta, not only from a trade aspect but also from a political, cultural and people-to-people aspect.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations with Japan in 1965, Malta has maintained friendly bilateral ties and has also witnessed an intensification of this relationship in recent years.

Of note is the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on May 27, 2017, the first official visit of a Japanese prime minister to Malta, followed by an official visit to Japan by the then prime minister, Joseph Muscat, accompanied by a sizeable trade delegation from July 30 to August 2, 2018, organised by TradeMalta. 

The opening of a diplomatic mission in Tokyo is in itself a powerful statement indicating our country’s commitment to establish closer links with Japan. Having a diplomatic mission in Japan can better enable Malta to pursue international trade diplomacy by:

• Being in a very good position to make important contacts and connections in diplomatic circles and in the business sector to help connect with both the Maltese public and private sector.

• Negotiating better on a government-to-government level to reduce trade barriers with Japan which can help create a level playing field for Malta-based companies to do business with Japan.

• Organising events showcasing Maltese products and services in Japan to give greater visibility to our country.

• Providing up-to-date and accurate information about the Maltese business climate.

• Being in direct contact with Japanese importers which will effectively identify problems which might hinder B2B and B2C trade relations.

• Promoting Malta on various media platforms, newspapers, magazines and TV shows.

• Assisting in the organisation of business missions to Japan from Malta.

• Being well informed on the new developments, trends and policies in Japan which can aid Maltese businesses to better target the market.

These are a few examples of what the Maltese embassy with a resident ambassador can do to enhance Malta’s trade relations with Japan.

If a company aims to export to the Japanese market, there is no quick-fix solution. There needs to be solid groundwork and market research studies to better understand Japanese ways of doing business.

Cultivating people-to-people relations is also very important, so it is generally expected to travel physically to Japan to meet business partners and to invite them to Malta and attend trade fairs.

Malta-based companies have managed to export to Japan with success. As an example, the tuna industry is a major powerhouse in our economy and the major export commodity to Japan.

The above efforts require a certain level of investment but one might tap into schemes available to Maltese enterprises from TradeMalta and Malta Enterprise that might help

ease the burden of doing business with Japan.

Andre Spiteri is Malta’s Ambassador to Japan. He can be contacted by e-mail on andre.j.spiteri@gov.mt.