Italy continues to view Japan as a strategic partner in exploiting the complementarities that are key assets in one of our country’s oldest and most solid bilateral relationships with an Asian country. This is especially true in the economic-commercial context. The year 2007 saw considerable improvement in the quality of our bilateral relations, which were not affected by the divergences over the United Nations Security Council reform projects. Our respective initiatives in Iraq, for example, or in response to the Iranian nuclear crisis and other key global themes, were largely in tune. Italy and Japan also have in common the fact that they will be holding the next two G8 Presidencies.
Political relations between Italy and Japan visibly increased in quality with the recent important visits by Prime Minister Prodi (15-17 April 2007) and Foreign Minister D’Alema to the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima from 31 January to 4 February 2007. Before these, the last visit by an Italian foreign minister to Japan was in 2001 (Dini). During Minister D’Alema’s visit a Memorandum of Understanding was signed establishing regular political consultations by the two countries and symbolising our firm intention to revitalise Italian-Japanese relations in all fields. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Cultural Assets and Activities, the Hon. Francesco Rutelli, accompanied by Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Sen. Vernetti, visited Tokyo from 17 to 20 March 2007. During their visit they opened the “Italian Spring in Japan 2007” programme of promotional events. Other members of our Government have also made numerous visits to Japan.
Economic and trade relations
While trade between Japan and Italy is progressing satisfactorily, the same cannot be said for industrial collaboration (mergers, alliances, joint ventures) and reciprocal investment. Indeed, Italy occupies a marginal position both as investor and recipient (in calendar year 2005 Italy invested 7 million yen in Japan. This was much less than other European countries, including the Netherlands, whose investment of 2,663 million yen made it Japan’s largest investor).
The most common form of direct investment is for companies to open branch offices. This is the path followed by many consumer goods producers, including the leading Italian fashion houses, who invest in fixed assets or by opening own-brand shops in the main shopping streets or department stores.
The “Italian Spring in Japan: culture, science and technology”.
To raise the visibility of the Italian presence in Japan, especially in the arts and advanced technology sectors, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs worked throughout 2006 on the “Italian Spring” event. The event gradually took shape over the year and was inaugurated in March 2007. A key feature running through its various elements was the strategic decision to match art and culture with the best Italian technology, in a dynamic blend that captured the attention of the Japanese public. To this end, centres of Italian scientific excellence were brought into play to develop ever-closer collaborative relations with fellow centres in Japan.
The work of Leonardo da Vinci can be considered as symbolising the originality and potential of Italian science and research. So it is no coincidence that for 2007, with the decisive collaboration of the Ministry for Cultural Assets and Activities and the Uffizi Gallery, the Foreign Ministry promoted an impressive exhibition on Leonardo in Japan. The highlight of the event was the National Museum of Tokyo’s exhibition featuring Leonardo’s masterpiece, “The Annunciation”.