Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales
I visited Japan last week in recognition of the continuing long-term importance of the commercial relationship between our two countries. Japanese companies have been investing in Wales for more than 40 years and a lively, growing trading market continues to develop in both directions. I used my visit both to promote Wales as a first choice location for investment and to signal to our long-standing friends and colleagues, and the Japanese business community more widely, that Wales remains firmly open for business and that the Welsh Government continues to value highly our relationship with Japan.
During my visit I was pleased to visit Sony, Toyota, Panasonic and Hitachi, all of which are substantial investors into Wales. I was particularly pleased to announce, during my visit, Welsh Government support of £1.1 million investment (by repayable finance) in new technology which helped Sony at Pencoed secure the project to develop a new Digital Media Content Management division, which will create 30 new jobs.
I met a range of companies to discuss long range business strategy. In each case it is very apparent why Wales remains a choice business location for Japanese companies. Firstly, the excellence of the Welsh workforce is recognised by Japanese business and, over the decades, their tried and tested commitment and expertise has been demonstrated – and good news spreads. Secondly, businesses made clear to me that their direct lines of communication to government, local authorities and educational institutions on the ground in Wales gives us a real competitive advantage. They know that if they have a problem, we will respond. This reputational capital has been built up over years and I am determined that we should continue to build on it.
I hosted a reception at the British Embassy promoting Welsh food and drink produce. The Japanese market is growing and the reputation of Welsh produce is growing correspondingly. I was very pleased to be presented with the first line of snacks to be produced by Calbee, the most recent Japanese investor into Wales, which opened on Deeside earlier this year. Among Welsh producers who have done distribution deals in Japan are Caws Cenarth Cheese, Snowdonia Cheese, Celtic Beer and Penderyn Whiskey. SA Brains, Halen Mon, Wrexham Lager, Ty Nant, the Bodnant Dairy, Rachels Organic, Monty’s Brewery, Purple Moose Brewery, Tan Y Castell Welshcakes were among the products represented at the promotion. Analysis reports a business trend in Japan in favour of niche and distinctive regional produce and I hope other companies will join the existing group of Welsh exporters.
For Japanese tourists Wales is, of course, a long haul destination and must compete in a challenging market against many other European attractions. I believe our offer is good and that we should do what we can to promote Wales as a quality destination. We have made some progress to this end through working with Visit Britain and the Japanese tourist industry. In my meeting with the Japanese Association of Travel Agents I was pleased to note that Conwy successfully bid to be included on their list of the “top 30 prettiest villages in Europe” – the only location in the UK to achieve this distinction.
I had talks in Tokyo with representatives of the Japanese Government. This provided a useful opportunity to underline the strength of our bi-lateral relationship and our shared commitment to a close and co-operative future. On the threshold of the Rugby World Cup it is appropriate to consider rugby as an important and enduring link between our two countries and, of course, the Rugby World Cop 2019 will be held in Japan. To this end, I met Mr Yoshiro Mori, a former Prime Minister of Japan and now in overall charge of Japan’s World Cup preparations. The 2019 World Cup, and the period leading up to it, provides an excellent platform to build further on our existing links with Japan.
Throughout my time in office I have emphasised repeatedly the need to get out around the world and sell Wales as a place to invest, to do trade, to study and to visit. The global market place is busy and gets more competitive by the year. We have recently posted our best investment figures for decades and I am determined that we should redouble our efforts to keep our competitive edge. Japan remains one of our key partner countries and the continued investment by some 45 Japanese companies into Wales – accounting for some 6,000 jobs and millions of pounds into our GDP – is the strongest possible indication of their confidence in Wales and our workforce.