Celebrating 40 years of diplomatic ties with Bahrain this year, the Japanese Ambassador to Bahrain explains why the Kingdom remains important to Japan.
Bahrain and Japan have had a special relationship that commenced with joint economic interests and is now blossoming into a multi-faceted partnership. The first barrels of oil from Bahrain’s Awali fields were shipped off to Japan in 1934.
“Bahrain was the first country in the GCC we imported oil from; years later key Japanese banks established their regional headquarters in the Kingdom, which was developing into a financial centre. It’s now heartening to see Japanese companies participating in the downstream sector, building refineries and petro-chemical plants,” remarks His Excellency Shigeki Sumi, the Japanese Ambassador to Bahrain.
Earlier this year when HM King Hamad toured Japan the significance of his visit was not lost on the Japanese. “This was the King’s first official visit anywhere outside South-East Asia,” he notes.
For Japan, it’s important that Bahrain remain the business hub in the region, as several Japanese businesses have their regional bases here.
“The process of reforms initiated by HM King Hamad is a great initiative and should continue. Many recommendations of the Bassiouni report have materialised and we hope the process endures. Japan supports dialogue based on transparency and the will of the people,” he affirms.
The ambassador is critical of interest groups who use violence as a means to achieve political goals.
“People should be realistic; when they say they want reforms, they should note whether the process is leading to a better situation or worse. We feel that people in Bahrain want things to normalise because business and investment is at risk. We hope the voice of the silent majority will prevail.”
The Kingdom remains one of the safest destinations in the world, notwithstanding the recent disturbances and Japanese investors remain committed to their plans in Bahrain, he believes.
Japanese pharmaceutical player SBI Pharma has decided to set up its regional office in Bahrain. The company is considering to build a multi-million dollar plant that will turn Bahrain into a regional pharmaceutical hub.
Kintetsu World Express, a major Japanese logistics company, will foray into Bahrain over the coming months with a logistics hub to service the neighbouring market of Saudi Arabia.
Also testing the Bahrain waters is Teikoku Electric, which is on track to set up its regional base on the island next year.
Given the Kingdom’s requirements, Japan can be of assistance in a number of sectors where it has developed advanced technology and expertise, such as renewable energy, waste management, water desalination and higher education.
The education ministry is currently in talks with Ritsumeikan University for running educational courses in IT, finance, energy training and management in Bahrain.
“An emeritus professor from Kyoto University visited Bahrain recently and made several proposals for recycling water and management of waste. Another proposal for tapping solar energy with Japanese technology will soon be submitted to the Kingdom for consideration,” His Excellency informs.