So far away, but the ties run deep! The Relationship between Japan and Latin America

So far away, but the ties run deep! The Relationship between Japan and Latin America

Katsuhiro Matsumoto Assistant Director, Country-Specific Development Cooperation Division 2, International Cooperation Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan March 2018

https://shingakunet.com/journal/career/20170327196631/

What do you associate with countries in Central and South America?

Strong at soccer! Cheerful carnival! The rhythm of the samba!

That’s what comes to mind, right?

But there are other important things as well.

Japan and the countries of Central and South America have a long history of friendly relations, and many of them have been interacting with each other for more than 100 years. Today, Japan is providing various kinds of aid to Latin American countries, but Japan has also been helped by Latin America. For example, mineral resources such as copper and silver that are necessary for various industries, and food such as soybeans, fish, and fruits that are on everyone’s table. Many of these items are imported from Central and South America.

Therefore, I asked an expert about exchange and development cooperation with Central and South America.

The person who spoke to us was Mr. Katsuhiro Matsumoto, Country Development Cooperation Division 2, International Cooperation Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is a veteran diplomat who has been with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 35 years. He has been posted to four countries in Central and South America, including Colombia and Peru, and is currently involved in ODA (Official Development Assistance) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to support economic development in Central and South America.

Aided in Japan to becoming active in the international community.

The countries of Central and South America are located on opposite sides of the globe and are far away from each other, but they have long had strong ties with Japan.

I asked him to tell me about the history of this exchange.

In the late 19th century, Mexico signed a treaty of equality with Japan.

With the Meiji Restoration, Japan opened its doors to the world after a long period of isolation. However, it was forced to sign unequal treaties with the Western powers that disadvantaged Japan in trade and other areas. In 1888, Mexico became the first non-Asian country to sign a treaty with Japan on equal terms.

From the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, Japan established diplomatic relations with other Latin American countries one after another. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, many Japanese emigrated to Central and South America.

Many Japanese immigrated to Central and South America, dreaming of success there.

The descendants of these immigrants (Nikkei) still live in Central and South America, numbering about 2.11 million people*.

 There are about 3.8 million people of Japanese descent in the world, and more than half of them live in Latin American countries.

Nikkei in Central and South America are active in a wide range of fields, including politics and economics, and are contributing to the strengthening of relations between Central and South America and Japan.

Mid-20th century: Supporting Japan’s return to the international community after World War II

Japan was defeated in World War II. In 1956, when Japan joined the United Nations, a large number of Latin American countries gave their support, and Japan was able to join the UN.

In addition, Argentina and other countries in Central and South America actively sent aid supplies to Japan, which was devastated after the war and lacked food and daily necessities.

(*) From a survey by the Overseas Japanese American Association (2016 estimates)

Japanese in Latin America are active in a wide range of fields, including politics and economics, and contribute to strengthening relations between Latin America and Japan.

Mid-20th century: Supporting Japan’s reintegration into international society after World War II

Japan was defeated in World War II. In 1956, when Japan joined the United Nations, a large number of Latin American countries gave their support, and Japan was able to join the UN.

In addition, Argentina and other countries in Central and South America actively sent aid supplies to Japan, which was devastated after the war and lacked food and daily necessities.

(*) From a survey conducted by the Overseas Nikkei Association (2016 estimates)

Development cooperation that strengthened ties with Latin America

Japan recovered from its postwar poverty with the help of aid supplies from Latin America and other countries, as well as funds from the World Bank and other sources.

Japan has grown into an economic superpower, and has even come to provide assistance for the development of developing countries.

Japan has also provided various forms of cooperation to Latin American countries to assist in their industrial development.

For example, the following two projects.

Developing a barren land into an agricultural production zone (Brazil)

There is a savannah area in Brazil called the Cerrado, which was said to be a barren land where no crops could grow.

In order to turn this area into an agricultural production zone, Japan provided development assistance for more than 20 years from the late 1970s.

Japan provided financial support, soil improvement, and guidance on crop cultivation techniques, which resulted in fertile farmland.

Today, Brazil is the world’s largest producer of soybeans, most of which are grown in the Cerrado.

In addition, the Cerrado produces coffee beans, vegetables, and livestock products, which are exported to Japan and the rest of the world.

Supporting the promotion of salmon farming (Chile)

In Chile, there were no salmon living, but in 1969, with the technical cooperation of Japan, a salmon farming business was started.

Today, Chile is a leading exporter of salmon, competing with Norway for the top spot.

I think most of the salmon on our tables come from Chile.

What kind of cooperation do you do these days?

There was a time when the political situation was not stable in the countries of Central and South America, but since around the 1990s, democracy has taken root and economic growth has continued.

In the past ten years, the total gross domestic product (GDP) has increased about 2.6 times (*).

In such Central and South America, Japan’s development cooperation is still taking place.

The main types of cooperation are as follows.

Cooperation in the field of disaster prevention

Like Japan, Latin American countries are prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes.

Therefore, we are cooperating with them by passing on Japan’s knowledge and technology on disaster prevention.

For example

Teaching evacuation drills

Infrastructure (social infrastructure) development for disaster prevention (*1)

Natural disaster monitoring (*2)

Improvement of disaster mitigation technologies to reduce damage.

Create disaster prevention plans

Disaster prevention education

Technical guidance for the creation of tsunami warning systems

Provision of related equipment, etc.

(*1) Infrastructure development for disaster prevention

For example, building evacuation centers and other facilities in case of a disaster, or building levees on rivers in preparation for floods.

(*2) Natural disaster monitoring

Monitoring in order to prevent the effects of natural disasters.

For example, when heavy rains occur, water levels are monitored using sensors and other devices to prevent the effects of flooding caused by overflowing rivers.

Renewable energy and other environmental fields

Countries in Latin America are developing economically and using more and more electricity.

However, if this electricity is covered by thermal power, the problem of increased costs for oil and other resources arises.

This is where the use of “renewable energy” made from natural sources such as solar power, wind power, and geothermal power is attracting attention.

Japan is supporting the construction of hydroelectric power plants and geothermal power plants, providing solar panels and energy-saving equipment.

Grassroots Grant Aid for Human Security (GRANDFOR) Project

In Latin America, there are economically rich regions and cities, but there are also many rural areas where people do not even have running water and drink water directly from the river.

Grassroots grant aid mainly supports the residents of such poor areas.

In addition to small-scale infrastructures such as water supply, assistance is provided to improve the lives of grassroots residents through the development of schools and hospitals, agricultural support, etc.

We’re joining forces with Japan to help other developing countries!

One of the things we are focusing on in our assistance to Latin America is ‘triangular cooperation.

Triangular cooperation is an attempt to use the technology and knowledge acquired through Japan’s assistance to help other developing countries, this time in cooperation with Japan.

The main partners in this triangular cooperation are Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, the four Latin American countries with the highest income levels.

What kind of support is provided in the triangular cooperation?

Chile, for example, is working with Japan on a triangular cooperation project in the field of disaster prevention.

For example, in Chile, we are working with Japan on a triangular cooperation project in the field of disaster prevention, specifically a project to train disaster prevention experts for other countries in Latin America.

Japan is no longer just providing unilateral assistance, but has become a partner in accomplishing something together!

I encountered a historic incident in Panama, where I was posted.

“In Latin America, Japan is highly regarded as a reliable country, and the number of Japanese companies doing business there is increasing.

Mr. Matsumoto said.

When I was working at the Japanese Embassy in Panama, I encountered the invasion of Panama by the U.S. military.

It happened about 30 years ago, between December 1989 and January 1990.

At the time, Panama was under a military dictatorship, and after this incident, the military regime collapsed.

After this incident, the military regime in Panama collapsed, and there were gun battles in the streets.

Even in front of the Japanese Embassy, American tanks were running around, and the normally calm people of Panama were armed.

It was scary, but I believe that I was able to witness a scene that changed the course of world history.

To all high school students

We asked Mr. Matsumoto to give a message to high school students.

I have been working as a diplomat for a long time, and what I think is that foreigners and Japanese are basically the same.

Even though there are differences in culture and way of thinking, foreigners are struggling and suffering just like us, and are doing their best.

Therefore, there is no need to think that you are dealing with a foreigner.

Even if you don’t speak the language of the country, you can communicate with them by using gestures and hand gestures.

When you go to a foreign country to study or travel, please try to talk to the locals.

Of course, learning a foreign language is a must if you want to work abroad.

Of course, learning a foreign language is a must if you want to work abroad, so study English first.

The key to improving your language skills is to listen and read a lot.

Use a variety of listening materials, novels and news written in English.

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