During his recent visit to Myanmar, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was accompanied by a 40-member business delegation. On an earlier visit to the Middle East and Russia, he had 120 business leaders in tow.
As Abe seeks to realize the growth strategy that is the third Abenomics “arrow,” he has been increasingly looking to boost overseas investment. It was Abe’s own idea to take Japanese business leaders with him on overseas trips.
In early March, right after Abe returned from his first visit to the United States as prime minister, he made a request to Eiichi Hasegawa, his special adviser. They were discussing future overseas trips during lunch at a Tokyo hotel.
“I want to take business leaders with me,” Abe told Hasegawa. “Can you check what kind of mission could be organized?”
The prime minister’s office did not leave it up to the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) as it had always done. Instead, through ministries and agencies, the office sounded out firms with advanced technologies in fields of interest to nations Abe planned to visit.
This resulted in the formation of a large economic mission to Russia and Middle Eastern nations. The same approach was applied for Abe’s visit to Myanmar, which was the 10th nation he has visited since taking office in December.
The Japan-Russia Forum held April 30 during Abe’s stay in Moscow drew considerable attention from the Russian side. Although the number of seats was doubled to 300 shortly before the event, the organizer was still unable to accept all the applicants.
As such, Abe produced tangible results as the nation’s top salesman.
When Abe visited the United States, he asked President Barack Obama to approve the export of shale gas to Japan at the earliest possible date, a strategic move that proved successful. During his visit to Turkey, he agreed with his counterpart that a corporate syndicate including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. will receive an order to construct a nuclear power plant there.
Abe is also enthusiastic about linking closer economic ties to security issues.
He established a two-plus-two forum with Russia, involving each side’s foreign and defense ministers, following similar setups with the United States and Australia. Abe also agreed to start security dialogues with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Those moves have been prompted by China’s increased maritime presence and the growing threats posed by North Korea, which continues its nuclear and missile development despite international criticism.
The current course of Abe’s foreign policy is expected to continue. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is due to visit Japan this week, and he and Abe are expected to reach an agreement on security enhancement, with China in mind. When Abe visits Poland on June 16, he plans to urge leaders of four Eastern European nations to help Japanese firms receive orders for nuclear power plant construction.
However, things have not been so positive regarding leaders of nations located closer to Japan.
The Abe administration is still searching for ways to improve ties with Beijing and Seoul, and it remains uncertain when he will hold summit meetings with Chinese and South Korean leaders.