Economy

India must provide high-quality products to meet Japan consumers’ expectations: Envoy

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on March 21, 2018 Published on March 21, 2018

KENJI HIRAMATSU, Ambassador of Japan to India

Japan’s Ambassador to India on ways to improve bilateral trade, enhance defence cooperation

 

Kenji Hiramatsu, Ambassador of Japan to India, has said India needs to provide high-quality products that meet the expectations of Japanese consumers. In an interview to BusinessLine he also said the defence cooperation programme concerning ShinMaywa US-2 amphibious aircraft may see some progress during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Japan later this year. Excerpts:

Japan is involved in some of the mega infrastructure projects in India, yet nothing seems to be materialising. Is this because of land acquisition or funding issues?

We have been discussing quite intensively how to solve the problems of land acquisition and funding. I think the situation has improved quite significantly in recent months. There will now be more speedy implementation of the projects. Land acquisition is still a problem sometime but we are finding a solution to it and a way out of this.

 

India-Japan bilateral trade also looks grim. Don’t you think it is time to update the India-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA)?

Regular meetings are on to review the CEPA. The joint committee is meeting every year where we are discussing mutual concerns and ways to improve trade.

But compared to Japanese imports, Indian exports to Japan have been falling quite significantly. Do you think India needs to diversity its product basket?

If India provides us high-quality products, of course, we are ready to source it. Japanese market is very competitive and Japanese consumers are demanding. So if your products reach that level of satisfaction of Japanese consumers more products can come in. We welcome more diversification of products. But nowadays the Indian government has strong interest in inviting more investments but trade, of course, plays a very important role.

When will the Joint Working Group on Civil Nuclear Cooperation be established which was to be done last year? Why the delay?

Both sides have strong interest in starting the Joint Working Group. It has not happened due to scheduling problems. This will be set up soon to see possible cooperation under the agreement. They will deal with several issues and identify potential projects that can be done together. But that is a long way to go. As of now we are exchanging notes as to what we are seeking from each other. In that way we can have a more complete discussion.

 

Will there be private sector participation from both sides in the JWG?

It is too premature to say but in due course their involvement is important because they are the ones who will promote the civil nuclear cooperation.

Now that Toshiba has sold its nuclear business after Westinghouse went bankrupt, which other Japanese firms have shown interest in India?

I cannot say which company will now be interested in the India business but there are Japanese firms that are involved in making nuclear power plants in other countries like Hitachi and Mitsubishi. But it doesn’t mean they will be involved in India. Those discussions have not started yet.

Why are the talks to sell ShinMaywa US-2 amphibious aircraft to India stuck?

During the last meeting between the two Prime Ministers we had decided to discuss the purchase of US-2 as part of an inter-governmental deal. We are in the process of a continuous discussion. The talks are not stuck at all and I am not frustrated or disappointed. I hope some progress will be made some time soon and there will be a meeting ground, preferably before the Prime Minister’s (Narendra Modi) next visit to Japan this year. I am always hopeful.

How does India figure on the ‘Three Principles on Transfer of Defence Equipment and Technology’?

We did change our regime on defence-related exports and technology. Before this any kind of technology transfer related to defence to other countries was not permitted. But now we will be able to transfer technologies to countries such as India.

Will you be willing to go for technology transfer with India under the US-2 aircraft deal?

For that India has to go through all the processes of clearing the three principles on transfer of defence equipment and technology. At this moment we have not decided to go through this process. If India agrees to the US-2 programme then the talks can be initiated on these principles.

You had recently said in an event that India and Japan need to do much more to demonstrate the strength of their ‘Strategic Partnership’ …

We believe in the same values and we believe in the importance of maritime safety and security. We also believe in the sovereignty and democracy of our economy. We want to promote peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. We also have connectivity agenda in this.

But what basically is Japan’s aim in the Indo-Pacific?

Well we have already started our discussion to promote this concept with other countries, including ASEAN. Japan and India should have more collaboration with ASEAN on this matter for more joint endeavour to promote security in this region. We are also talking of developing agenda for Africa and the possibility of having more connectivity projects. So Africa is going to be part of Indo-Pacific cooperation.

Is the cooperation also not aimed at China?

No we are not targeting one specific country. We want to have shared values and goals. We are not doing it against any country. We hope every country can be on board on our initiative of free and open Indo-Pacific.

What is your view on the last year’s military stand-off between India and China over Doklam?

I think any border conflict should be solved through peaceful negotiations. So I am happy that the stand-off was lifted after a strenuous effort.

Published on March 21, 2018
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