31 May Australia-Japan News | May 2022
This page collates links to interesting articles that provide a picture of what is happening in Japan and in the Australia-Japan relationship, with brief summaries of their content.
While we don’t claim this list to be comprehensive, and some of the articles may be behind paywalls, we hope it will evolve into a valuable resource that assists members and subscribers in keeping up to date and provides a record of key developments… make sure to check back regularly to see the latest.
FUJIFILM Data Management Solutions Acquires Australia’s Digital Messaging Services Provider, Smart Messaging Services
A subsidiary of FUJIFILM Business Innovation, FUJIFILM Data Management Solutions announced on 31 May that it has completed the acquisition of an Australian digital messaging services company, Smart Messaging Services Pty Ltd (trading as Intelli Messaging). Smart Messaging Services will become a wholly owned subsidiary of FUJIFILM Data Management Solutions. Smart Messaging Services offers business messaging services and other marketing services in Australia and New Zealand using its cloud-based, digital messaging platform, which allows sending and receiving SMSs in approx. 170 countries. Through this acquisition, FUJIFILM Data Management Solutions intends to enhance its business using Smart Messaging Services’ expertise in cloud technology. Smart Messaging Services will be renamed FUJIFILM Secure Messaging Services Pty Ltd. Read more >
Prime Minister Kishida said on 26 May that Japan will begin accepting foreign tourists in stages starting 10 June for the first time in about two years. Starting 10 June, the government will allow the entry of tourists on fixed package tours. Tours will only be accepted from the “blue” list of 98 countries and regions presenting the lowest risk of infections, which includes Australia. The government announced Naha (Okinawa) and New Chitose (Hokkaido) airports will resume accepting international flights by the end of June in addition to five already approved to accept international flights. Japan launched an experimental program on 24 May that accepts tourists from four countries (including Australia) on a trial basis. Despite criticism at home and abroad over the entry ban on tourists, Japan still managed to rank first in the 2021 Travel & Tourism Development Index published by the World Economic Forum. Japan for the first time topped a list of 117 countries and regions ahead of the U.S., Spain, France, and Germany. Australia came in 7th. Read more >
On 24 May, Prime Minister Kishida met with Prime Minister Albanese who was visiting Japan for the Quad summit meeting. The first 20 minutes of the summit meeting was held between the two leaders alone. The Prime Ministers condemned Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and agreed similar incidents must never happen in the Indo-Pacific region. They agreed to further strengthen the “Special Strategic Partnership” between Japan and Australia and work together to realize a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” They affirmed to work toward the early entry into force of the Japan-Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement signed this year and will proceed coordination concerning a new Japan-Australia Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation that will further deepen security cooperation between Japan and Australia. The Prime Ministers also shared the view that they will cooperate to realize sustainable and inclusive growth in the Indo-Pacific region, through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), which was launched the previous day. Prime Minister Kishida reiterated Japan’s support for AUKUS (however Kishida said Japan was not considering joining AUKUS in his response to a question from The Australian Financial Review* at a press conference). The Prime Ministers also agreed to deepen cooperation in the field of energy, carbon neutrality and reinforcement of the energy supply chain. Read more >
On 24 May, the leaders of the Quad group – Japan, Australia, the United States, and India held an in-person summit in Tokyo. Kishida, Biden and Modi commended the attendance of Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who flew to Japan immediately after taking office. Quad leaders met to renew their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and discussed a broad range of issues including the impact of the situation in Ukraine on Indo-Pacific, concerns for increasing tensions in the East and South China Sea as well as North Korea’s ballistic missile development and launches. The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to further deepen infrastructure cooperation and announced that they will seek to extend more than 50 billion USD of infrastructure assistance and investment in the Indo-Pacific over the next five years. On critical and emerging technologies, Quad leaders announced the launch of the Common Statement of Principles on Critical Technology Supply Chains, and the relevant agencies of the four countries also signed a new Memorandum of Cooperation on 5G Supplier Diversification and Open RAN. On space, the leaders agreed on the launch of a “Quad Satellite Data Portal” that provides satellite data from the four countries to help address issues such as climate change and sustainable use of oceans and marine resources in the region. The leaders also welcomed the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) to promote the Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) information sharing among the countries in the region. Quad leaders agreed to hold their next in-person summit in Australia in 2023. Read more >
See Quad Joint Leaders’ Full Statement here.
Japan’s IHI Corporation announced 13 May that IHI Engineering Australia Pty Ltd has launched a feasibility study for microgrid decarbonization projects in Bamaga and Thursday Island. The study is for Energy Queensland Limited subsidiary, Ergon Energy Network, an electricity distributor that serves more than 750,000 customers across the state, including 39 off-grid communities. Ergon is committed to decarbonizing remote communities by reducing their reliance on diesel power and increasing renewable generation options. The study will evaluate solar and wind power facilities and storage battery systems, which are key decarbonized power distribution components, and validate the designs of energy management systems that would simultaneously control such components. IHI plans to work in collaboration with Renova, Inc., a leading Japanese developer and operator of renewable power plants, in appraising renewable energy. Read more >
IHI Corporation is a comprehensive heavy-industry manufacturer working in four main areas—Resource, Energy and Environment; Social Infrastructure and Offshore Facilities; Industrial Systems and General-purpose Machinery; and Aero Engine, Space and Defense.
Mitsui & Co., Ltd. announced 12 May it has acquired a 33.7% stake in Climate Friendly Pty Ltd, an Australian company that facilitates carbon farming projects to generate land sector carbon credit. Climate Friendly is one of the largest carbon farming project services-providers in Australia, and the company works with farmers, Traditional Custodians and conservation organizations to generate land sector carbon credit through the regeneration of native vegetation, improvement of soil health and implementation of sustainable agriculture in Australia. The acquisition is part of Mitsui’s decarbonisation strategy, promoting efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of its group companies. Read more >
Sumitomo Forestry Co., Ltd announced on 17 May it has entered into the landscaping business in Australia. Through its wholly owned subsidiary, Sumitomo Forestry Australia Pty Ltd (Head Office: Melbourne), Sumitomo Forestry acquired 51% of shares of Regal Innovations Pty Ltd, which is a major landscaping company that designs and constructs commercial and public external spaces, green zones and parks, predominantly in Sydney. This is the first time that Sumitomo Forestry has entered into the landscaping business in public spaces in overseas. With Sumitomo Forestry’s residential and real estate development businesses and Regal’s environmental greening technology, the companies will advance environmentally friendly developments and improve industry sustainability. Read more >
Prime Minister Kishida pledged at a panel meeting on 20 May to require large firms to disclose their gender wage gaps as part of efforts to address systemic disparities in the workplace. The new rule would cover around 18,000 companies (both publicly traded and privately held) with more than 300 employees. Under the new rule, companies will be obligated to publish the difference on remuneration between female and male workers on their websites and elsewhere. They will also be required to disclose the wage disparity between their permanent and non-permanent employees. The government is preparing to include the new rule in a “new capitalism” action plan to be compiled in June. Women’s median earnings amounted to just 88.4% of men’s across the OECD countries in 2020 and Japan fell short of this at 77.5%. *Read more >
Japan will accept small group tours with vaccinated travelers from the U.S., Australia, Thailand and Singapore as a trial later this month. According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, travelers will have to be triple-vaccinated against COVID to join fixed package tours limited to areas where prefectural governments have agreed to accept them. Japan’s borders have been closed to tourists since the early stage of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The government is considering doubling the daily arrival cap to 20,000 in June. The number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2021 dropped 99.2% from 2019 (pre-pandemic year) to a record low 245,900. Read more >
The Bank of Japan’s data showed 16 May that Japan’s wholesale prices surged 10% in April from the same month a year earlier as the war in Ukraine and a weak yen pushed up the cost of energy and raw materials. The prices of goods traded between companies increased for the 14th straight month and the 10% gain was the fastest since comparable data became available in 1981. Prices of petroleum and coal products jumped 30.9% while prices of iron and steel were up 29.9%. A chief economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute said, “the rise in wholesale prices was surprisingly large, amplified by the yen’s sharp depreciation since March. The core consumer price index (CPI) is almost certain to hit 2%.” The Bank of Japan (BOJ) in April projected the core CPI, excluding volatile fresh food items, to hit 1.9% in the current fiscal year. However, the BOJ Governor Kuroda told the Japanese Parliament he would stick to his ultra-easy monetary policy. “There is no need to tighten monetary policy in response to a transitory trend, as opposed to a sustained one,” Kuroda said. He expressed his view at a press conference 28 April that recent inflation, driven by surging raw material costs due to the war in Ukraine, will not last and it will still take time to attain the 2% target in a stable manner, supported by a growth in earnings, wages and jobs. Read more >
In early April, Tourism Australia launched the Yours to Explore campaign, its largest in Japan for the past decade.
The integrated, comprehensive campaign is designed to educate Japanese consumers that Australia is open and is welcoming visitors around world.
In March, Tourism Australia participated in the Tabi Salad EXPO in Osaka, which was held by Tabi Salad, one of the most popular TV travel shows in Japan with 9 million viewers (per week) to promote Australia. The three-day event attracted over 20,000 visitors. Read more >
SoftBank Corp.’s HAPSMobile and Lendlease establish joint venture to explore HAPS deployment in Australia
SoftBank Corp.’s subsidiary HAPSMobile Inc. and Lendlease Corporation announced that they had formed a joint venture partnership to explore the feasibility of HAPS (High Altitude Platform Station) in Australia. The Sydney-based joint venture, HAPSMobile Australia Pty Ltd, was established on 29 April 2022. Given Australia’s expansive landmass, much of Australia is still without mobile network coverage. The flexibility of HAPS telecommunications systems based in the stratosphere can help enable the provision of high-speed LTE and 5G connectivity to locations with partial or no coverage from terrestrial base stations. Going beyond connecting people, HAPS technology could also be used to support industrial IoT. The joint venture will study the feasibility of HAPS deployment in the Australian market with Lendlease acting as facilitator. Softbank and Lendlease have a long-standing relationship and have been working together in Japan since 2002. Read more >
Prime Minister Kishida told reporters on 9 May following a virtual meeting of G7 leaders that Japan will phase out Russian oil imports but will remain involved with Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2, oil and natural gas projects located in Russia’s Far East. During the online meeting Kishida had announced that Japan will ban Russian crude oil imports “in principle” in accordance with the other G7 nations as part of additional sanctions against Russia. Japan imported 3.6% of its crude oil from Russia in 2021, as well as 10.8% of its coal and 8.8% of its natural gas. Russia was Japan’s fifth largest supplier of crude oil and LNG in 2021. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno said Japan’s decision to remain in the Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 projects reflects their importance to resource-poor Japan. Japanese trading house Marubeni announced in early May it had cut its Russian investments by 12.6 billion yen in the fiscal year that ended March 31 by mainly writing down its stake in Sakhalin-1. The company has a 12.3% stake in Sakhalin Oil and Gas Development Company (SODECO) – a Japanese consortium who owns 30% of the Sakhalin-1 project. Marubeni said it would officially remain in the project in line with Japanese government’s policy, although it hoped to withdraw due to the war in Ukraine. Read more >
The Japanese Financial Services Agency is set to require companies, mostly listed, to disclose the ratio of women in management positions in their annual securities reports. Under the plan, about 4,000 firms, mostly listed, must also disclose details such as the average pay by gender and the ratio of male workers who took child care leave. The agency aims to make the disclosure mandatory possibly in fiscal 2023, starting in April next year. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications’ data showed the female manager ratio in Japan stood at 13.2% in 2021, compared with 30-40% seen in the U.S. and European countries. Japan also lags behind other major economies in achieving gender equality in management-level position. According to the World Economic Forum, Japan ranked 120th among 156 countries in the overall gender gap rankings in 2021. The agency’s move comes as investors are paying more attention to the ratio of women in management positions. On 4 April, the Tokyo stock market was reorganised from its four sections to three trading segments to attract more foreign investment through stricter listing standards and corporate governance. Read more >
Half of the respondents in a survey conducted by Kyodo News released on 2 May believe Japan needs to amend the Article 9 of its Constitution, which renounces war and bans the possession of military forces, to clarify the legal status of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). Despite growing concerns over regional security and increasing calls for an amendment among lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and some other parties following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the level of support has hardly changed from a year ago – 50% of the respondents said it is necessary to revise Article 9 while 48% said it was not, compared with 51% in favour of an amendment and 45% against in a similar poll conducted last year. Former Prime Minister Abe said during his tenure it is vital to clarify the SDF’s legal status to put an end to arguments that Japanese forces are “unconstitutional.” On 1 May, Prime Minister Kishida said on a TV program amending the supreme law, including Article 9, based on the LDP’s proposal is a task that Japan faces in order to deal with the changing security situation. Read more >