Interview: Fumio Kishida

What do you see as the main factors that led to the deep-rooted relationship between Japan and Qatar?

FUMIO KISHIDA: Japan and Qatar have become close partners primarily through imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and crude oil in the four decades following Qatar’s independence in 1971. Since then, our relations have continued to go from strength to strength. For example, our trade volume has increased almost seven-fold in the past 10 years from $5.6bn in 2002 to $37.5bn in 2012. As a result of these intensifying economic relations, our human capital exchange has also expanded. The number of Japanese companies in Qatar has increased from 28 to 44 over the past three years, and Qatar now has a Japanese community of more than 1000 residents. In the same vein, Qatar presented Japan with a great deal of assistance after the earthquake in 2011, consisting of $100m and more than 4m tonnes of additional LNG supplies. These examples show us how both countries have built a true partnership despite our geographical distance.

Under Japan’s new leadership, how important is Qatar to Japanese interests in the Gulf region?

KISHIDA: Qatar remains a significant country for Japan’s energy security as it is one of our largest LNG suppliers. Approximately 11% of Japan’s total crude oil imports and 18% of its total LNG imports come from Qatar. Strengthening our cooperation in politics and security as well would be mutually beneficial for both countries. Japan, as a “proactive contributor to peace” based on the principle of international cooperation, is willing to contribute to the peace and stability of the international community, including within the Middle East. In this context, we place great importance on our cooperation with Qatar, and our close ties with the country have become all the more important. Based on this significance, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the country in August 2013. Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, visited Japan in November of the same year. As was confirmed in talks, Japan would like to further develop amicable bilateral relations with Qatar by extending cooperation to domains such as economy, energy, defence, education, medical care, agriculture and culture.

To what extent are Japanese companies expanding their participation in Qatar’s energy sector?

KISHIDA: The close ties that have been formed between Qatar and Japan in the energy sector are set to further develop with the participation of Japanese companies.

Most recently, technical cooperation between both countries in the field of resource development has been strengthened. Cooperation in the energy sector is expanding to include human capital development, which is a pillar of Qatar’s National Vision 2030.

During Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to Qatar, a memorandum of understanding was signed between enterprises regarding the exchange of Qatari trainees working in the LNG field, enabling them to visit Japan and learn about Japanese technologies as well as experiencing our society and culture.

Apart from the hydrocarbons sector, where would you like to see economic cooperation and bilateral investment increase between the two nations?

KISHIDA: Other than the hydrocarbons sector, Japan intends to contribute its technological expertise to areas of Qatar’s economy such as infrastructure, agriculture and medical care. Qatar is currently preparing the construction of stadiums and railways for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The extensive experience that Japanese companies have in these fields can be effectively utilised for infrastructure development in Qatar.

Japanese companies will also be able to demonstrate and apply their advanced technological expertise in water treatment, using desalination technology or water and sewerage technology, as well as in the fields of medical equipment and plant factories. Forging ties in new areas will reinforce the comprehensive partnership that exists between Japan and the state of Qatar.