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David Warren

Ambassador to Japan, Tokyo
Posted 10 December 2010 by David Warren | Comments

Today is International Human Rights Day.    We had a very interesting and important visit recently from the Death Penalty Project, an organisation working to protect the human rights of those around the world facing the death penalty. Japan is of course a country that still uses the death penalty.  From time to time there have been effective moratoria on its use, but two people were executed in July this year, and the EU remains active in encouraging Japan to find alternative sanctions or at least to ensure that its practices meet current international standards.

USA death penalty protestersProponents of the death penalty point to the high level of public support – although when one looks at the figures, there are nuances that are worth further analysis.  A debate is developing in Japan about its use.   This is partly driven by the introduction of a lay judge system last year, partly by concern about past and possible future miscarriages of justice – and partly by the sort of change in public and political opinion that we have seen in many other countries.  The Death Penalty Project mission met MPs, lawyers and members of civil society. Changing attitudes will be a slow process.   But there is awareness of the issue, and we are keen to contribute, constructively, to the debate, in the hope that abolition may become a real prospect in the future.



David Warren
10 December 2010

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Posted 08 October 2010 by David Warren | Comments

10 October marks World Day Against the Death Penalty. FCO Minister of State Jeremy Browne will be making a statement to mark the day. During his visit to Japan in September, Mr Browne called on the then Justice Minister Ms Keiko Chiba to discuss, among other things, her recent move to set up a study panel on the death penalty. I am interested to see how this panel's work develops, and whether it has any impact on Japanese public opinion on the death penalty. I hope to call on the newly appointed Justice Minister, Mr Minoru Yanagida, soon, to discuss this and other justice and human rights issues affecting our two countries.

The UK opposes the Death Penalty in all circumstances and the FCO works actively for global abolition. More information on our human rights strategy and our work opposing the death penalty can be found on the FCO website.



David Warren
08 October 2010
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Posted 05 August 2010 by David Warren | Comments

I had my chance at driving the Leaf  - the first all-electric mass market car - recently.   Here is a picture of me doing a ferocious 100kmh at Nissan's GranDrive track at Oppama.

David test-driving Nissan Leaf

Smooth, silent (Nissan have built a low level of noise back into the car to avoid danger to pedestrians), effortless acceleration from a standing start, very comfortable.  A real lifestyle choice - low carbon, clean and green, with zero carbon emissions, lithium-ion battery-powered - as much as a practical and functional way of getting around.

I enjoyed driving it.



David Warren
05 August 2010
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Posted 30 July 2010 by David Warren | Comments

A very successful visit by the Foreign Secretary to Japan in mid-July. 

Foreign Secretary William Hague delivers a speech in JapanSuccessful in that he registered very clearly in his speech - the first that he has made outside London - the importance of "the new commercialism" in the new Foreign Office agenda.  Our role is to promote British interests, and that means British commercial interests.  In Japan, the emphasis has always been on the work we do to attract inward investment.   The Foreign Secretary test drove the new Nissan Leaf, all electric, which Nissan will be making in Sunderland from 2012.  And on promoting trade: he pressed hard for the liberalisation of the Japanese market, and the removal of the non-tariff barriers that will not only help British companies sell, but Japanese companies grow.    And all this business is of course conducted against a background of a relationship between Britain and Japan where there is pretty strong alignment across most of the political and economic issues with which our two Governments have to deal.
 
Interest in the Japanese market among British companies remains very strong, and we are assisting 2 trade missions to Japan this week and next, with over 35 British companies exploring opportunities here.  



David Warren
30 July 2010

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Posted 28 July 2010 by David Warren | Comments

Olympic stadium for London 2012This week is the beginning of the two years' countdown to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics in London. 

We had a big event at the Embassy to celebrate this and to present the way that the tournaments will embrace diversity and the environment, leaving behind what will become the largest urban park in Europe.   Two Japanese medal winners joined us - Yuko Arimori, Barcelona and Atlanta Olympic Women's Marathon Medallist, and Kuniko Obinata, Torino and Nagano Winter Paralympic Skiing Gold Medallist - as well as many members of the Japanese Olympic Committee.

And I was delighted that we were able to welcome also a visiting trade mission from the East Midlands.   The Japanese Olympic team will be training at Loughborough University, which is famous for being at the cutting edge of sports studies and technology.   The sort of event that brings together so many of the themes of the Embassy's work - human exchanges, educational partnership, sporting and cultural contacts, and trade and investment support.

Please look at our short film with Kosei Inoue the Sydney Olympic Judo Gold Medallist, to see another angle of the preparations for London 2012.

 

 

 



David Warren
28 July 2010
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Posted 29 June 2010 by David Warren | Comments
Congratulations to Japan for reaching the last 16 in the World Cup for only the second time ever, and for having won their first ever World Cup matches outside Japan.
 
The mood was euphoric here when Japan beat Denmark on Thursday.   Now all eyes are on Japan v Paraguay.. 
 
Commiserations to England.    I was sitting between the US Ambassador and the Italian Ambassador at a breakfast yesterday morning, and we all had reasons to be miserable.  But I will be raising a glass to Japan's chances tonight.

David Warren
29 June 2010
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Posted 22 June 2010 by David Warren | Comments

I was very sorry to read in last week's "Economist" magazine of the death of Norman Macrae, who was its deputy editor for many years. 

Norman Macrae was the first journalist to recognise the growing economic importance of Japan in the 1960s.  His seminal essay "Consider Japan" (which can be read in the Norman Macrae archive) was published in September 1962, is a fascinating and powerful analysis of the Japanese economy at that time, and was an important corrective to those who still thought just in terms of Japan as a poor, developing country producing cheap counterfeit goods.  The "Economist" obituary gives many other examples of Macrae's prescience and far-sightedness. 
 
The sudden jolt of recognition that Japan was about to become - as it had in the late 19th Century after the Meiji Restoration - an industrial giant (two years after "Consider Japan" the world woke up to Japan's success with the Tokyo Olympics) led directly to the British Government's trade promotion activities that I listed in my last article on the blog, the setting up in the early 1970s of the Exports to Japan Unit in the then Department of Trade, and the emphasis in this Embassy's work on trade and investment links with Japan, that lasts to this day.
 
Do read the "Economist"'s obituary of Norman Macrae - it is a tribute to a massively influential thinker, whose impact is still felt today in the work we do here in Tokyo.



David Warren
22 June 2010
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Posted 18 June 2010 by David Warren | Comments

Fascinating "On This Day" article for yesterday on the BBC website about the first purpose-built (and floating) Japanese trade fair in London in 1964.
 
"The exhibition was intended to show that Britain had more to export than whisky and woollens".   I still have to remind people that, while Scotch whisky is a wonderful export, it represents a very, very small proportion of overall British exports to Japan.   We now sell over £8billion worth of goods and services to Japan every year - nearly everything from helicopters, through gas turbines to pharmaceuticals, scientific equipment and food and drink.  British retailers are in Japanese high streets, British food and drink in the department stores.   British music is popular too.  
 
We now have over 1400 Japanese companies investing in the UK, employing over 100,000 people.    The three big automobile producers, Toyota, Nissan and Honda, make half the cars produced in the UK every year.  The slowdown in growth to which the BBC article refers hasn't actually held Japanese investment back - we had a strong year in 2009. But we can never take anything for granted.  It is a tough investment market in Europe, and we have to go on competing for that next factory, R and D centre, or sales headquarters to be placed in the UK rather than somewhere else in Europe. 
 
As the article says, Britain was slow to get a foothold in the years immediately after World War Two.   But Japanese trade promotion missions like the one described in this article - which I remember dealing with when I was first working in the British Embassy in the late 1970s - did a lot to raise the profile.   And the export promotion campaigns we used to run helped too.   Now, at a time, when companies are understandably focused on faster-growing Asian markets, we shouldn't forget the continuing importance of Japan.   As we used to say when we ran the "Action Japan" campaign referred to here ten years ago - "The Japanese are among the most demanding, but also the most reliable, business partners in the world.  British companies that sell successfully in Japan - and thousands do every year - can sell anywhere."

See the UK Trade and Investment Japan page for more promotional events coming up.



David Warren
18 June 2010
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Posted 15 June 2010 by David Warren | Comments

I spent a couple of days at the end of last week in Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku.  I was invited to talk to the local Japan-British Society about Britain and Japan - the things that we have in common and the things that divide us; and I called on the Governor of Ehime and the Mayor of Matsuyama City, as well as visiting Panasonic Shikoku Electronics, a major healthcare company, and part of a group that is a major investor in the UK.

Ehime JBS

I lay at the end of a long and tiring day in the famous hot spring baths in the Dogo Onsen, immortalised by the great writer Natsume Soseki in his classic novel "Botchan", reflecting.   

Matsuyama is a town that has cultivated its heritage with skill. You can travel on the miniature "Botchan" steam railway from the city centre to Dogo, have the full onsen experience (as Soseki did), and think yourself back into the late 19th century.   But on this occasion, that doesn't lead to the sort of conversation I sometimes find myself having with Japanese friends who are nostalgic for the great days of Anglo-Japanese cultural exchange during the Meiji era (and, in any case, Soseki was acutely miserable during the two years he spent writing and studying in London from 1900 to 1902). In Matsuyama, as in every other region of Japan that I've visited in the last two years, the subjects of conversation come from today's headlines.

At least four times during the day, starting with the Mayor of Matsuyama, I was asked about the Greek economic crisis and its implications for the eurozone. This matters for Japan.  Exports last month were 40% above a year ago.  Exports to the EU were 20% up. Fears that a downturn in Europe will lead to reduced demand for Japanese exports both there, and in the other countries that export to Europe, mean that Japanese minds are focused on the risks of contagion. Japan's equity markets have been jittery. The bond market, however, with 95% of Government bonds still owned domestically, remains stable. It is nonetheless interesting that the Prime Minister is beginning to focus the public debate, ahead of the G8 and G20 Summits in Canada next week, on preparing the ground for a more aggressive approach to fiscal consolidation. Just how committed the Japanese Government will be to fiscal discipline will be revealed when their new fiscal framework is revealed shortly.



David Warren
15 June 2010
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Posted 09 June 2010 by David Warren | Comments
As widely expected, the Deputy Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, succeeded Yukio Hatoyama as Prime Minister on Friday, and  has now  appointed his new Cabinet -  with a large number of  incumbents staying  in place, at least until the Upper House Election, which is widely expected to be held on 11 July.
 
I met Mr Kan last year a couple of times before and after he went to the United Kingdom to look at the way in which the British Government was organised.   He has said publicly that the way in which the UK Cabinet Office co-ordinates policy between different government departments, as well as the mechanisms by which departments are held accountable for specific outcomes to justify their budgets, could be models for Japan.   We are keen to encourage the continuing close contact between Japanese and British policy-makers and administrators, in responding to the real interest that has emerged in the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which I've reported elsewhere in this blog, about the relationship between British civil servants and politicians.   This is part of the desire among the new era of Japanese politicians to exert more power over the bureaucracy, and get more political management into the making of government policy.  Naoto Kan is famous in Japan for tackling the bureaucracy when he was Minister of Health in the 1990s over the scandal of HIV-contaminated blood.    I also hope that he'll give the same emphasis to climate change that we have seen from the DPJ since it was elected last August - his restating the commitment to a 25% carbon emissions reduction target by 2020 was encouraging.
 
But at the moment, all eyes here are likely to be on the Upper House Election.   The papers are saying that the Diet session will end in mid-June, and then we'll be into campaigning.


David Warren
09 June 2010
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Posted 07 June 2010 by David Warren | Comments

We had a marvellous visit a few days ago from Alistair and Katherine Wight, from Edinburgh.   Alistair was one of eight British sailors who came to Tokyo in August 1945, as part of HMS Return, and who reopened the British Embassy, which had been closed since the British staff had been repatriated to the United Kingdom in mid-1942, some months after the outbreak of war with Japan. 

Mr WightHe is now 86, as is Katherine, and had not been back to Tokyo since his brief visit in 1945.   I was fascinated by his recollections of Tokyo in the aftermath of war - the department stores still open in the Ginza, with staff giving items away in panic, the trams still running past the Embassy's front door in spite of the terrible bomb damage across much of the city, the natural reluctance of local Japanese to fraternise with foreign troops, and of course deep suspicion on the Allied side after the brutalities of the Imperial Army in the Asian conflict - but also the kindness that Alistair and his colleagues received from some of the Japanese residents of Tokyo whom they met.
 
Alistair and Katherine's trip was partly to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.   It was funded by the UK Lottery's Heroes Return programme .   Alistair showed us a photograph of himself at 21, in the garden of one of the Embassy houses, sitting on the veranda steps that are still there today.  We went and recreated the photograph 65 years later.   Alistair and Katherine presented us with the cap ribbon from HMS Return.   It was moving and inspiring to listen to his memories.



David Warren
07 June 2010

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Posted 04 June 2010 by David Warren | Comments

Fascinating seminar last week in the Embassy on clinical trials for cancer treatment. The Americans and the Koreans also took part, as did the (Japanese) Health Policy Institute.  
 
Opening speakers gather at the eventJapan is still a very heavily regulated society in this (and other) areas, and this slows down the speed and effectiveness with which the results of clinical trials can be brought through to improve care for patients.

It means also that fewer patients participate in trials. We're helping to prepare a White paper for the Japanese Government on the result of the seminar, which saw some interesting exchanges between health professionals, scientists, researchers and patient action groups. We want this work to have impact, and we'll be monitoring what effect it has.

We heard a very moving speech at the seminar by Agnes Chan, the well-known singer, writer and academic (and Ambassador of the Japan Committee for UNICEF), who has herself received treatment for cancer, and who is now active in ensuring that patient groups have better access to information and are more engaged in this work.



David Warren
04 June 2010
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Posted 03 June 2010 by David Warren | Comments
Although the press had been speculating about Prime Minister Hatoyama's having to stand down because of his falling popularity ratings and the breaking up of the coalition over the US Futenma basing issue in Okinawa, his announcement yesterday morning that he was resigning came as a shock to many.   The Prime Minister's announcement of his resignation - and his apology for failing to settle the Futenma problem was emotional.  Inevitably, there has been agonising among political commentators about the fact that no Japanese Prime Minister since 2006 has lasted longer than a year in office.   There is a vigorous debate going on in Japan about the political system, and whether there are lessons that Japan can learn from other countries, including the UK, about how Government is run and about the relationship between the political world (which I heard one Japanese businessman describe in a lecture this week as still "quite closed") and the public that it represents.
 
But as we reflect on his resignation, we ought also to remember the leadership Japan showed under his Prime Minister ship on climate change - the 2020 25% carbon emission reduction target, which helped to kick-start the debate on climate change in the run-up to last year's Copenhagen conference, and the generous support that Japan announced earlier this year to the stabilisation of Afghanistan - $5 billion over the next 5 years.   And the start that the Government has made to dealing with some difficult issues, such as the need to make progress on deregulation, from which foreign investors, and Japanese businesses themselves, should benefit in the longer term.
 
The new leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (and, if approved by the Diet, Prime Minister) will be elected tomorrow, so further blogs will follow.

David Warren
03 June 2010

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Posted 08 April 2010 by David Warren | Comments
Cherry blossoms in front of the No2 House of the British Embassy TokyoIt's the cherry blossom season, and once again, you realise just how emotionally and psychologically important this is for everyone in Japan.   There's constant television coverage of the main sites; speculation about when the blossom will bud, bloom and fall; and hanami (cherry-blossom-viewing) parties all the time, as office-workers, families, friends all sit under the trees, relaxing, drinking, celebrating as spring once more comes to Japan.
 
The cherry blossom trees outside the British Embassy in central Tokyo are among the most famous such sites in the city.   They were first planted by Sir Ernest Satow in the 1890s when he was the diplomatic Minister to Japan.  Satow was one of the first Japanese specialists in the Consular Service, and a scholar of immense distinction - his memoir "A Diplomat in Japan" is a very famous work.   Literally thousands of people have been walking past the Embassy over the last week, as they do every year, admiring his legacy.  And inside the Embassy, we've been holding our own hanami celebrations, inviting our commercial, political, economic, media and scientific contacts to join us in admiring the beauty of the flowers and the changing of the seasons.   I gave a party yesterday for politicians, and was touched at the number of MPs who came along to be part of this tradition.   One of them noticed the photograph we have on display showing the "Choshu Five" - the first Japanese students at University College, London in 1863, and real pioneers, five years before the Meiji restoration, in the opening up of Japan to Western influence and innovation.  Nearly 150 years ago - but those links are still strong.  And the cherry trees, first planted nearly 120 years ago themselves, are a sort of symbol of them.


David Warren
08 April 2010
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Posted 16 March 2010 by David Warren | Comments
Worrying indications that the Japanese Government has watered down the proposed climate change Bill.   The suggestion appears to be that consideration should be given to emissions trading targets being based on carbon intensity rather than being purely numerical.  This is a compromise designed to satisfy those elements of the industrial community in Japan who are still opposed to the Government's ambitious targets.  But at least there is recognition of the principle of emissions trading.  The battle over exactly how this should be enacted continues.   We hope that the Japanese Government will remain as proactive as they have been since taking office last August on this issue.


David Warren
16 March 2010
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