Trend’s exclusive interview with Ambassador of Japan to Azerbaijan Junichi Wada
Economic relations between Azerbaijan and Japan are still way below expectation, and the pandemic of COVID-19 has affected the economic activities, said Wada.
“To improve the current situation, I am trying to spread the information about Azerbaijan among Japanese companies. It is important for Japanese companies to get more information about business opportunities in Azerbaijan. For over 30 years I have worked at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan, and made efforts to create many business opportunities. I am glad that I can use this experience to strengthen the relations between Japan and Azerbaijan,” said the ambassador.
The envoy noted that in 2020, the value of trade between Azerbaijan and Japan was approximately USD 100 million.
“This figure is expected to increase further. In 2022, Japan and Azerbaijan will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations, and we are planning to hold many cultural events not only in Baku, but also in other regions of Azerbaijan. I hope this will strengthen Japan-Azerbaijan relations and lead to increase in the trade,” added Wada.
The Japanese ambassador pointed out that the government of Azerbaijan is developing a free economic zone which offers tax incentives, and improves transportation infrastructure.
“Therefore, we expect that investment by Japanese companies in the logistic sector of Azerbaijan will increase. Additionally, I consider agriculture and tourism as high-potential economic sectors. The Government of Japan has also promoted the tourism industry in recent decades. As a result, the number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2020 increased by nearly 9 times compared to 1996. It would be a great pleasure if the experience of Japan in this field could support the promotion of tourism sector of Azerbaijan both in private and public sectors.
In regards to agriculture, I was impressed with the quality of agricultural products when I visited various regions of Azerbaijan. As you know, Japanese companies have high-quality agricultural machinery and technology. I believe that using these technologies, Japanese companies can also contribute to the further development of the agriculture in Azerbaijan,” added Wada.
The Japanese envoy noted that the energy sector is a major pillar of bilateral economic relations and continues to make good progress, such as the extension of ACG (Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli) Production Sharing Agreement of Japanese oil companies in September 2017.
“Regarding to the bilateral cooperation, we have implemented Official Development Assistance (ODA) projects such as Shimal Gas Combined Cycle Power Plant Project, provision of grant for Procurement of Medical Equipment and others. More than 268 Grassroots Grant Projects have been implemented in 56 regions of Azerbaijan, in the fields of education, agriculture, water supply and irrigation system,” he said.
Humanitarian and cultural ties
Wada said that Japan has long been supporting the development of bases for cultural and sports activities in various parts of the world, which aims to activate cultural exchanges and deepen friendly relations with Japan by providing grant assistance for the development of cultural and sports-related facilities and equipment.
“In Azerbaijan, 13 projects have been implemented so far with a total amount of approximately 300 million yen (approximately $2.7 million). The recent example is the renovation of three classrooms at the Department of Japanese Language of the Baku State University in 2017, with the aim of improving the Japanese language education environment and enhancing the abilities of Japanese language learners, and the provision of necessary educational equipment. It would be a great pleasure for us if the grant assistance promotes cultural exchange and strengthens the friendship between Japan and Azerbaijan. There are also ongoing projects with educational and sporting institutions in Azerbaijan. We look forward to announcing positive news soon,” he explained.
Wada pointed out that JICA is currently conducting the Provincial Cities Water Supply and Sewerage Project and Study for Electric Power System in Azerbaijan.
“We hope the Study for Electric Power System will lead to the increase of investment opportunities in the power sector of Azerbaijan. The Government of Japan has provided a loan worth 32.8 billion Japanese yen, approximately 509 million manat for this project. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021. It will improve water supply and sewage systems in 5 regions such as Gobustan, Khizi, Khachmaz, Gusar and Naftalan. Additionally, as I mentioned before, our Grassroots Grant also supports water supply projects. We have assisted about 100 projects were implemented in the water supply field since 2000,” said the Japanese ambassador.
Tokyo 2020 Summer Paralympic Games
Wada noted that the road to hosting the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games was not an easy one.
“The spread of COVID-19 has forced us to live with great uncertainty. I am sure that the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, held from August to September 2021 in such a situation, offered a silver lining to people around the world. The Tokyo Paralympics brought together many athletes and officials from all over the world, and regardless of nationality, gender, or disability, they recognized each other, respected each other, and united with each other, which was broadcast around the world. Two athletes from Afghanistan, whose participation was initially thought to be hopeless, also participated in the Games with the support of related organizations. The 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games represented the very image of a world without barriers,” he said.
The envoy believes that the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics has inspired people around the world to imagine a future where diversity and harmony are realized, rather than a future where society is divided.
“Japan will continue to play a leading role in the realization of inclusive society after the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. An example of these efforts is the Abilympics. Japan is the birthplace of the Abilympic Movement and has made special efforts in job training for people with disabilities. As the main event of the International Abilympic Movement, the International Abilympic Games are held in various cities of the world approximately every four years. In May 2022, the 10th International Abilympic Games will be held in Moscow, where people with disabilities will compete in more than 100 skill events. In December 2020, Azerbaijan became a member of the International Abilympics Federation with its secretariat in Japan. The significance of strengthening social solidarity is growing at a difficult time when the coronavirus is spreading globally. Japan will continue its efforts to make the post-COVID 19 era a more inclusive society where opportunities are open to all,” Wada concluded.
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