I travelled to Japan and the Republic of Korea from 2 to 6 July, where I undertook a programme of activity to strengthen links in business, trade, tourism, education and culture.
The visit focused on sharing best practice across the public and private sector, promoting Scotland as an innovative and outward looking country. During the visit, I undertook over 30 engagements, which included 10 meetings with companies, 4 bi-lateral Ministerial meetings, keynote speeches on female leadership and Scotland On The World Stage, as well as addresses delivered at tourism and cultural networking receptions which promoted Scotland as a leading country to visit, live, work, study and invest in.
The relationships between Scotland, Japan and the Republic of Korea are important ones, reflected by the strong economic, cultural and personal links of our citizens.
In Tokyo, I met the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Hideki Niwa. The meeting provided an opportunity to highlight current links between Scotland and Japan and discuss potential areas for future collaboration through cultural engagement, as part of the UK/Japan Season of Culture 2019-20 and ahead of the forthcoming Rugby World Cup in 2019 and Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Earlier in the week, I met with Hisashi Shimoyama, Artistic Director of Ricca Ricca, an annual international festival of performing arts for children, young people and families. This year’s country of ‘focus’ will be Scotland which resulted from a previous meeting I held with him in Japan in 2015. In partnership with Imaginate, 4 productions by leading artists and companies from Scotland have been invited to perform. I thanked Mr Shimoyama and other theatre representatives from Shizuoka, Tokyo and Nagano, and encouraged continued collaboration between Scotland and Japan.
I met the Minister of Justice Yoko Kamikawi and discussed the Women Political Leaders Summit in Tokyo next year and gender equality issues. I outlined the Scottish Government’s approach, driven by a simple underlying premise, that women’s rights are human rights. I indicated that Scotland would be willing to work and share its experience in this area with Japan going forward.
I met with the Japan-British Society, founded in 1908 to promote cordial relations between the peoples of the United Kingdom and Japan. They indicated that they plan to plant cherry blossom trees across the UK as a symbol of friendship, including at least three sites in Scotland.
I met regional city leaders from a number of Japanese prefectures and discussed how Scotland uses cultural diplomacy to promote itself. A presentation was also delivered by VisitScotland and Creative Scotland.
During a meeting with the Nippon Foundation, I thanked the Executive Director, Mitsuyuki Unno, for providing on-going support by sending students to the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen and encouraging the expansion of the Summer School initiative. I also highlighted the Scottish Government’s on-going commitment to strengthening relations between Scotland and Japan through the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Scottish Enterprise and the Nippon Foundation in 2017, on Research and Development funding to target the development of subsea technologies. Just before the meeting, I met with some students selected to take part in the Nippon Foundation’s summer school programme in Offshore Engineering at Robert Gordon University. I spoke about the strong partnerships between companies and universities in Scotland and Japan, driving important innovations across a wide range of industries and highlighted that they were coming to Scotland during our Year of Young People.
I held meetings to further develop relationships with key inward investors for the life sciences (Sinfonia), subsea engineering (Kawaski Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Electric) and renewables (Chiyoda). Mitsubishi Electric have created circa 450 jobs in the last 4 years in Scotland, now employing over 1000 locally. I witnessed the signing of a letter of intent between Scotland’s Underwater Centre (Fort William) and Kawasaki Heavy Industries to test their AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) aimed at the oil and gas market. Chiyoda are building on their investment in Scottish based Xodus Group, by choosing Scotland to develop the world’s first Global Hydrogen supply chain project.
I attended a business panel discussion with senior representatives from the British Chambers of Commerce Japan, with around 80 guests across industries, investors, GlobalScots and several media outlets. I delivered a speech focussing on female leadership and how the Scottish Government is committed to creating a more inclusive form of growth that tackles inequalities while at the same time driving competitiveness.
I spoke at a Tourism Networking event, where there was a strong representation from trade representatives and members of the media and press. The focus was on promoting Scotland’s luxury market, unique culture and programme of festivals. There was a particular interest shown by the trade media on what’s new in the development of wellness tourism in Scotland, and a real eagerness to learn from Scottish tourism ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
I spoke at a reception hosted by SDI at the British Embassy in Tokyo, recognising Japan as an important partner for mutual economic growth and showcased Scotland’s premium food and drink products on the world stage as well as the new Scotland Is Now campaign. Guests included representatives from current and potential investors in Scotland, GlobalScots, retailers of Scottish produce and a range of other businesses and sectors including culture, tourism and education.
In Yokohama, I met with the Mayor of Yokohama City, Ms Fumiko Hayashi. The meeting’s purpose was to explore ways to encourage the development of connections between sectors in Scotland and Yokohama following an initial meeting we had in 2017. Key areas for collaboration include exchanges between the Scotland rugby team and the community and young people of Yokohama during the 2019 Rugby World Cup; encouraging university partnerships, including student and academic exchanges; and recognising important exchanges which have taken place between Yokohama and the Scottish marine and sub-sea industry with the support of Scottish Development International. Ms Hayashi and I then signed a Joint Declaration on collaboration in these sectors between Scotland and Yokohama during 2019-20, utilising the unique opportunities provided by the Rugby World Cup, Olympics and Paralympics.
I visited the campus of Yokohama City University. The university has been progressively developing relationships with Scottish universities, including the Universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dundee and Edinburgh Napier, as part of its internationalisation programme. I met with the University President, Mr Shigeta Yukichi, where we discussed the development of stronger links between Scottish Universities and Yokohama City University. I then addressed an audience of students. I began by talking about the contribution of Scots to the development of Yokohama and touched upon broader Scottish links with Japan on culture, trade and education, as well as focussing on the subject of Europe and the Scottish Government’s stance in light of the 2016 EU Referendum and Brexit process as well as Scotland’s place in the world.
I also spoke at a business seminar event organised by SDI which focussed on the subsea sector with key stakeholders from the Japanese marine and renewables business community. SDI has been working with marine industry partners in Yokohama city who are interested in the subsea sector to drive collaboration and investment in Scotland’s subsea industry. I spoke about Scotland’s subsea capabilities and Research and Development assets, which are world recognised and a draw for investors and oil and gas companies looking to diversify into sustainable methods. I also encouraged Japanese companies to look to Scotland’s expertise in the subsea sector, as they look to enter the global oil and gas market and seek future mineral extraction opportunities.
I also spent a day in the Republic of Korea. I was welcomed by the British Ambassador, Simon Smith, at the British Embassy and we discussed how to promote further cooperation and support for Scotland’s activities in the Republic of Korea, as well as the Scottish Government’s positive stance on encouraging inward investment to Scotland. Following this meeting, I joined him at a Tourism Networking Event, which provided the opportunity for travel, trade and airline stakeholders to learn more about what’s on offer to Koreans travelling to Scotland. My speech promoted Scotland as a leading country to visit, live, work, study and invest in, as well as offering some of the best cultural experiences anywhere in the world. I built on this by having a bilateral meeting with the Minister for Culture, Sports and Tourism, Mr Do Jong Hwan. We discussed how both nations can strengthen relations with future collaboration through cultural engagement, including during the 4 th Edinburgh International Culture Summit in August 2018.
I also met the Vice Minister for Land and Infrastructure, Son Byeong-Suk, and the Deputy Minister for Central Land Tribunal, Kwon Yongbok. We discussed how to promote cooperation on rural issues, and I underlined the Scottish Government’s commitment to support Korean organisers as they prepare to host the 12 th OECD Rural Development Conference in 2019.
I held meetings with a number of current investors and key partners for Scotland including CS Wind and Hyundai.
The visit was opportune given international interest around Brexit and presented a vitally important opportunity for me to reassure businesses and politicians from Japan and the Republic of Korea that Scotland is an outward looking, welcoming country and remains open for business.