The Japanese ambassador in Mexico spoke with Infobae about the expectations in the bilateral relationship and how our country was key for the Asian nation to open up to the commercial world more than 130 years ago.
It was 1888, Porfirio Díaz was establishing himself in power in Mexico without knowing that 20 years later a revolution would expel him from the country; Japan was going through its own revolt: the Meiji era, which meant opening up to the world after centuries of confinement.
There were still decades to go before that Asian nation would become the power it is today (the third-largest economy in the world, an exporter of technology ), but that year and, in particular, the help from Mexico, were the decisive factors for its history will change.
The paths of both countries had already joined 400 years ago, first in 1609 with the New Spain shipwreck of Rodrigo de Vivero on the shores of Onjuku and then with the expedition of the samurai Hasekura Tsunenaga in 1614, who was sent to Europe through New Spain to establish commercial exchanges and request the sending of Catholic missionaries. He arrived in Acapulco, passed through Mexico City, and left for Europe from Veracruz.
Although Japan and Mexico are separated by 11,000 kilometers, totally different languages and cultures that hardly have anything in common, they are united by history, economy, and excellent bilateral relations. There are some 1,300 Japanese companies in the country, more than 11,000 Japanese expats residents, and a treaty (the Economic Association Agreement, of 2005) that has made Japan Mexico’s sixth-largest trading partner, and our country a key place for the Asian giant.
“For Japan, Mexico is a very important country,” says the Japanese ambassador to our country, Noriteru Fukushima, without hesitation, in an exclusive interview for Infobae Mexico. If more evidence is needed, other revealing data: 90% of the avocado consumed in Japan is Mexican, Japan is the second destination for agricultural products from Mexico after the US and even before the pandemic, the arrival of 170 thousand Japanese tourists was recorded in Mexico.
But how did these two countries end up being so close? Let’s go back to 1888. It was in that year that the Treaty of Friendship, Navigation and Commerce between Japan and Mexico was signed. The first on equal terms for Japan.
“Until then, Japan could not have an equality treaty with the Europeans. Mexico gave Japan a chance to open the door to the world because she recognized Japan as an equal. Japan at that time was an underdeveloped country and Mexico was more developed with many diplomatic relations with the world. In 1868 we opened the door to the world with the Meiji Era and 20 years later we achieved that treaty, that completely opened the door”, explains the ambassador.
Noriteru Fukushima, the Japanese ambassador to Mexico
From that year on, the relationship developed rapidly. In 1891, the Japanese consulate was established in Mexico, the first in Latin America. And in 1897, 36 Japanese left the port of Yokohama to go to Chiapas, where they established the first Japanese colony in the country, which today has yielded the fruit of some 76,000 Nikkei (Japanese descendants) throughout the nation, the third country in America with more Japanese presence only behind Brazil and Peru.
Thus, 2022 marks the 125th anniversary of Japanese migration to Mexico and for Ambassador Fukushima the future of relations is encouraging.
“We consider Mexico as a very attractive power for the Japanese, it is no longer just a North American region for us to export to the US, but for other countries. The people who work here are highly trained, many companies have a positive view of Mexico.”
And it is that Japanese companies no longer only have the Bajío region in their sights, “they are interested, for example, in Campeche, Quintana Roo, Yucatán.
In Mexico we are happy and I believe that businessmen are also coming with a lot of confidence ”.
The entry into force of the USMCA and the changes that it implied in trade between Mexico, the US, and Canada does not seem to mean a problem for Japanese automotive companies either.
“More than challenges for companies, it is like a chance”, explains the ambassador. “Japanese companies really appreciate this treaty that these three countries have, that opened the doors to invest in Mexico, thanks to this treaty there are more opportunities for Mexico to export its products to Canada and the US.”
What he hopes they can negotiate as soon as possible is the issue of the rule of origin, “so that they decide what rules of origin are going to have, that interests the Japanese automotive sector because the interpretation is a bit confusing, the rest is not a challenge or problem, it is a chance”.
For the ambassador, the future of the economic relations between Japan and Mexico is “positive”, with “a lot of income” because “the power or the possibility or capacity of Mexico will not change”.