Japan and Jamaica have a long history of friendship since the establishment of the diplomatic relationship in 1964. The two countries have common values of freedom, democracy, as well as market economy, and we have been collaborating on issues such as world peace and stability, the rule of law, and climate change. Our relationship has been developing steadily in recent years through the first Japan-Caricom Summit Meeting in 2014, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe's visit to Jamaica in 2015, and Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness's visit to Japan in 2019. Now our relationship has matured to be called the J-J partnership.
In 2020 our exchanges are affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic; however, this situation provides us with new opportunity to further strengthen our partnership. Jamaica and Japan still have a great deal of untapped potential, bilaterally and globally. Based on our existing friendship, let us seize this opportunity to expand our cooperation in coming years in new fields.
Our relationship has developed in many areas over half a century, including trade, tourism, investment, financial and technical cooperation, along with cultural and educational exchanges. Although it is not widely known, Japan imports 70 per cent of high-quality Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, its development of which Japanese private and public sector have been supporting for a long time. As it relates to development cooperation, Japan has cooperated in various projects such as the North Coast Roads Development Project and the water supply project in Kingston Metropolitan Area and Montego Bay by capitalising on the use of Japanese technology.
I believe that, under Jamaica's Vision 2030 National Development Plan there are a lot of fields and projects that Japan can help to develop by using its technology and knowledge. These include the fields of industrial diversification, energy security and conservation, plans for the logistics hub, and digital transformation.
Priority areas of cooperation
Japan and Jamaica have many similarities as maritime nations and common challenges as both countries are susceptible to natural disasters. As we agreed at the Japan-Caricom Summit Meeting, we have been strengthening cooperation towards sustainable development, including overcoming vulnerabilities particular to small-island developing states (SIDS).
Disaster prevention and environmental protection are and will continue to be two key areas of our cooperation. In this area one grant aid project, amounting approximately US$13 million, is ongoing to improve emergency communication systems to help reduce impact of disaster throughout Jamaica.
We have already moved forward with plans to provide vessels for strengthening maritime security and disaster prevention capabilities, which was agreed between our two countries in December 2019. We are now preparing to launch new project to tackle the issue of plastic waste in the ocean, and are ready to discuss other priority projects such as an afforestation project.
In the energy sector, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is implementing a technical cooperation project to help improve energy security through the introduction of renewable energy and promotion of energy efficiency. In 2020 JICA continued to implement the concessional ODA loan project of US$15 million for the energy management and efficiency programme which is co-financed with The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
In the private sector, Japanese trading house Marubeni has invested in electricity provider Jamaica Public Service (JPS) and is working for new energy efficiency, energy-saving technology and diversified sources of energy in order to ensure stable and efficient power supply. As the Japanese Government has committed to a carbon-neutral society by 2050, accelerating green transformation with technological innovations such as next-generation solar cells, we are pleased to cooperate with Marubeni in pursuing energy efficiency and introducing more renewable energy sources in Jamaica.
Opportunities from COVID-19
The spread of the novel coronavirus has shifted the priority of the entire world, with every country now focused on the measures to contain this virus and have increased their resources in the health and medical area to save people's life. It has changed our lifestyle and made us recognise the importance of digitisation, as well as global cooperation to fight against the virus.
The Japanese Government has been focusing on cooperation in the medical area to overcome the COVID-19 based on the “human security” and UN Sustainable Development Goals' (SDG) philosophy of “No one will be left behind”. As such, medical equipment and materials worth approximately US$2 million will soon arrive in Jamaica. We have endeavoured to make other donations, such as provision of ambulances to local hospitals through the embassy's grass roots human security grant projects.
At the same time, the pandemic reminds us of the critical importance to construct the sustainable and resilient society and address the planetary health issue, which is considered as the root cause of the continuous emergence of these infectious diseases. While making every effort in the medical field, including provision of vaccination, addressing the sustainable development issues is nothing less than our priority. We need to accelerate our efforts for that purpose, including new technological development in the area of health care, education, disaster prevention, and protection of the environment.
Tokyo Olympics: A fresh impetus to overall exchange
While the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 was a symbol of recovery from World War II, Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics games this year will be remarkable symbols of humankind overcoming this pandemic. Tottori prefecture, which has a sister-city relationship with the parish of Westmoreland, will host the Jamaican team. There have been many exchanges between Westmoreland and Tottori in sports, culture, and among high school students. Moreover, exchanges among athletic associations through JICA are also active.
I wish that Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be a trigger for an expansion into new chapter of exchanges not only among athletes, but also in society including people from all layers between our two nations. It provides a precious opportunity to multiply people to people contact and promote cultural exchange.
Deepening and expanding fraternal bonds of cooperation and friendship is another pillar of Japan's Caricom policy. In addition to exchanges between local communities, such as Tottori and Westmoreland, it is important to establish partnership among the universities to deepen mutual understanding. A collaboration between The University of the West Indies (UWI) and Sophia University in Japan is ongoing with the theme of sustainable development of island countries. Furthermore, an initiative to introduce a course of Japanese development study is being advanced at The UWI. At the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) there is a Japanese language course along with the movement to deepen collaboration with Japanese university in the animation field. Through the MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) scholarship Jamaican students can pursue a master's or doctoral degree at universities in Japan. The JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Programme, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2020 in Jamaica, is also significant in further promoting mutual understanding between our countries.
In 2025 Osaka International Exposition will be held with the theme 'Designing Future Society for Our Lives'. It will be a good occasion to create and disseminate various ideas for humankind's common issues after COVID-19. The participation of Jamaica in this expo will be a good occasion for Japanese people to come to know Jamaica better, thus triggering new exchanges and investments between our two countries.
Masaya Fujiwara is the Japanese ambassador to Jamaica.
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