Brexit has not stopped inflow of Japanese investment to Britain: Boris Johnson

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson was quick to highlight that Britain's decision to leave the European Union has not hindered Japanese investment in Britain.
British foreign secretary Boris Johnson was quick to highlight that Britain's decision to leave the European Union has not hindered Japanese investment in Britain.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO - Britain's decision to leave the European Union (EU) has not hindered "huge flows of Japanese investment into the UK from continuing unabated", British foreign secretary Boris Johnson said on Friday (July 21) during talks with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida.

"Yesterday, I drove a Honda Civic made in Swindon that was exported to Japan and this is a clear sign of deepening economic ties between our countries," he said in his opening remarks at the sixth Japan-UK foreign ministers' strategic dialogue.

"Obviously, we'd want to use our new status with our EU friends to become more open and more internationalist than ever before, and deepening our relationship with Japan is clearly a major part of that strategy."

He later added at a joint news conference, while standing next to Mr Kishida: "We are leaving the EU but not Europe, and we will continue to build our commercial and economic relations with Japan."

Mr Kishida, meanwhile, said he was heartened by Mr Johnson's commitment to ensuring transparency and predictability in the Brexit process to minimise the impact of Japanese businesses in Britain.

Mr Johnson had been quick to stress Japanese investment in Britain, as he went on a charm and media offensive. Upon his arrival in Tokyo on Thursday, he said: "Japanese companies invest more than £40 billion (S$70 billion) in the UK and our commercial relationship is stronger than ever."

More than 1,000 Japanese firms operate in Britain, employing about 140,000 people.

But Mr Johnson's visit comes as questions swirl over the impact of the impending Brexit - or the exit of Britain from the EU - on trade and commercial relations between the two countries.

Domestic media reports this week said Japanese financial firms are beginning to reconsider their European strategies so as to protect their core European businesses. The EU adopts a single-passport system for financial services that allows financial institutions to operate in all EU countries so long as a licence is obtained in one nation.

Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Nomura Holdings and Daiwa Securities, which have their European headquarters in Britain, are reportedly looking at setting up subsidiaries in Frankfurt so as to ensure their operations in the EU will not be jeopardised by Brexit.

Security issues, including North Korea's nuclear and missile development programme, also dominated the talks on Friday morning (July 21) at the Iikura Guest House.

In his opening remarks, Mr Kishida noted that Japan and Britain are "global strategic partners who share fundamental values".

As such, it is paramount for the two countries to closely cooperate at a time when the "rules-based international order is being exposed to different challenges including North Korea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea", Mr Kishida said.

China has been increasingly assertive of its sovereignty in the waterways, despite conflicting territorial claims by various states - including Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets in the East China Sea, and Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan in the South China Sea.

Mr Johnson concurred, saying that the UK "stands shoulder to shoulder with Japan in speaking up for the system".

The British Foreign Secretary is slated to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later on Friday, as well as Japanese Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.

At these meetings, he is expected to share his experience overseeing the London Olympic Games in 2012 when he was the city's mayor and pledge Britain's "world-leading expertise in staging major events", as Tokyo gears up to host the marquee event in three years.

On Thursday, Mr Johnson visited the Research Institute for Science and Engineering as well as the robotics centre at Tokyo's Waseda University, where robots have been developed for healthcare and to assist in disaster situations.

There, he encountered the Wabian2 robot, which reportedly may get to carry the Olympic torch ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Games.

He quipped at the news conference on Friday: "I went for a run around the Imperial Palace (referring to the 5km route that is popular in Tokyo) this morning and was overtaken by people of all ages.

"My ego can survive this - yesterday I saw a Japanese robot that can run faster than me and I was so full of admiration...(I) know what an amazing, inventive, dynamic economy Japan is and we're trying to build on that relationship and partnership. I have no doubt it will get stronger."

Mr Johnson leaves for New Zealand on Saturday, before visiting Australia next week.