UPDATE: Mar 08, 2017
TPP as Japan’s Chance for “Competitive Agriculture”
—– This is your second tenure as Danish Ambassador to Japan. What is your impression about Japan after your 7-year absence?
Japan, with its security bills enacted, is going to be a player in the new global order. The participation in the TPP shows Japan’s willingness to open its economic door. Japan will assume a more proactive role than before in the political, economic, and security-related areas on the global scale.
—– Japan and Denmark will celebrate the 150th anniversary of their diplomatic ties in 2017. Which areas do you think should be strengthened for reinforcing the good relationship?
Commercially, I would like to promote global business cooperation in the areas of water management, renewable energy, smart grid technology, etc. between Japanese companies with global operations and Danish high-tech companies that are highly competitive. Beside the on-going cooperation in off-shore wind power generation, collaborative development of energy-efficient technologies and energy crop cultivation has high potential. I would also like to revitalize the Danes’ interest in visiting Japan.
—– Please tell us about the growth factors for Danish companies and the “Flexicurity” system.
Denmark is a small but open economy, and Danish companies have historically been focusing on external trade and actively bringing in foreign investments and technologies. Our government has supported industry development by securing competitive business conditions. The shipping industry has grown to handle more than 10% of global trade, supported by the national strategy (called “Blue Denmark”). Also, some flagship companies grew in our food and pharmaceutical industries. The labor force is an important resource in Denmark. Flexicurity is a flexible labor market system in which it is easy to hire and fire workers and the workers are protected with generous unemployment benefits and job retraining. This enables Danish companies to swiftly enter new fields or review their current businesses. The Danes accept high taxes as an investment for this system. Flexicurity may be a good model for Japan where the number of temporary staffs is increasing.
—– What do Danish companies expect from the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations?
Consistency between the Japan-EU EPA and the TPP is vital. The EPA must be negotiated in the way that gives European companies a level playing field where they can compete with TPP members under the same conditions in the TPP area.
—– What do you suggest in order to strengthen the agriculture industry in Japan?
The TPP is the best chance for Japan to turn the protected agriculture into an industry that can compete in the global market through investment and innovation. The export of high-grade agricultural products such as beef and fruits is expected to increase.
—– How is Denmark working toward its ambitious goal of being independent from fossil fuels by 2050?
We are planning large investments in clean energies, mainly wind power and biomass. Also there is the plan of having Nissan electric vehicles serve as a kind of smart grid. And for reducing energy consumption, we have centralized heating and cooling systems provided by 300 cogeneration power plants nationwide.