Serious business: Abe visits Mideast, Africa


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe left Thursday for a weeklong tour of four Middle East and African countries, his first overseas trip this year.

The visit to Oman and the three African countries of Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique and Ethiopia is part of Abe’s strategic diplomacy aimed at looking at the whole world, sources said.

With Japanese companies showing interest in Africa, which is rich in natural resources and has a fast growing economy, Abe hopes to boost Japan’s economic relationship with African countries.

Abe is the first prime minister to visit Africa since Junichiro Koizumi in 2006.

After visiting Oman, Abe will move on to talks with his counterparts in the three African countries.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference Wednesday that Abe’s trip is aimed at strengthening economic cooperation with African countries and highlighting Tokyo’s contribution to peace and stability there.

At the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, or TICAD V, in Yokohama last June, Abe said that “now is the time to invest in a growing Africa,” suggesting that his government will support companies expanding into the continent.

Officials from various industries will join Abe on the trip in a bid to expand business opportunities in Africa.

The government has chosen the three African countries based on regional balance and importance, the sources said.

In Cote d’Ivoire, which is rebuilding after many years of political turmoil, Abe plans to demonstrate Japan’s policy of continuing support of the country, mainly through official development assistance, the sources said.

In Mozambique, which is rich in natural resources such as coal and natural gas, the prime minister will attend an investment forum to be joined by Japanese companies.

He will deliver a speech on African policy at the headquarters of the African Union in Ethiopia, which is regarded as the capital of African politics.

Abe’s trip comes at a time when China is boosting its diplomacy there. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi left on an 11-day African tour Monday.

With China apparently increasing its presence in Africa through economic assistance, Abe hopes to highlight Japan’s differences by offering support in such fields as personnel training and agriculture in a bid to encourage African self-reliance, the sources said.

Spain energy deal


Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy agreed Wednesday to strengthen cooperation in areas requiring cutting-edge technology, such as renewable energy and medical services, in a bid to spur growth in both economies.

At a meeting in Madrid, they also agreed to energize people-to-people exchanges between the two countries, mainly among young people, Kishida said.

“We hope to make stronger the momentum for Japan-Spain cooperation,” he told reporters after the meeting.

The talks came a day after Kishida and his Spanish counterpart, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, vowed to work together to help firms expand into the vast Spanish-speaking market in Latin America.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Kishida and Garcia-Margallo agreed to seek an early conclusion of negotiations for a free trade pact between Japan and the European Union, Japanese officials said.

In the same talks, Kishida also explained to Garcia-Margallo the government’s security policy, including the recently adopted national security strategy, noting that ties with Europe and Spain are important in pursuing the policy, according to the officials.