In 1869 Austria and Japan concluded the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation. One hundred and fifty years later, diplomatic relations between the two continue to flourish.
“Austria was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic ties with Japan,” said Karin Kneissl, Austrian minister of Europe, integration and foreign affairs.
“This excellent bilateral relationship has grown significantly since then and our countries cooperate in many areas; in particular, trade, science and technology. Our countries also have very close ties when it comes to culture — Japan is an important host for Austrian culture and cultural performances. It is a prime destination for institutions, such as the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Boys Choir. Vice versa, Austrians are eager to learn more about the rich culture of Japan. 2019 will also see the resumption of nonstop flights between Vienna and Tokyo. Without a doubt, this will contribute to the dynamics of our bilateral relationship.”
While culture, music and art continue to bring Austria and Japan closer to one another, the two countries are actively strengthening their trade partnerships through economic collaboration.
“In 1873 the Japanese attended the Vienna International Exposition, which began cultural exchange between Austria and Japan,” said Kiyoshi Koinuma, ambassador of Japan to Austria.
“Both countries’ appreciation for music and art led to the development of robust cultural ties. Over the years, Japanese musicians have been influenced heavily by Austrian music and lots of music students have been studying in Vienna. Conversely, Austrian artists have also been influenced by Japanese culture like ukiyo-e, which influenced the work of famous Austrian artists like Klimt and Schiele. We are currently promoting projects for continued cooperation between Austria and Japan and furthering cultural and student exchanges.”
“The strength and peacefulness between our two countries stem from common values,” said Koinuma. “Austria and Japan share the fundamental principles of freedom, democracy, free trade and human rights. Our like-mindedness has made our relationship one of respect and has led to peaceful, yet strong collaborations. We desire to continue our relationship and build upon it.”
Back in 2009, Japan was already Austria’s third-largest trading partner. Imports from Japan included automobiles and video cameras while Austria exported lumber, industrial machinery, transport equipment, chemicals and alcoholic beverages to Japan.
While the automotive sector continues to play a significant role in Japan-Austria trade, other key sectors have come into play.
“Trade between Austria and Japan is flourishing and advancing in many sectors,” said Koinuma. “Japanese cars are being exported to Europe while European agriculture and manufacturing products are being exported to Japan. Additionally, increased interest in renewable energy and environmentally friendly technology has led to growth in the energy sector as well as in information communication technology and digitalization.”
Connecting Western and Eastern Europe, Austria is a popular destination for Japanese companies and investors. Nichicon Corp., an electronics component manufacturer, established their European headquarters in Austria two decades ago.
Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Vienna assists and promotes trade in the Central and Eastern European region from its regional office in Austria.
“As one of JETRO’s earliest worldwide establishments, JETRO Vienna has seen the relationship between Japan and the Central and Eastern European region change and grow,” said JETRO Vienna director, Satoshi Abe.
“With Vienna serving as an access point for 11 different countries in Central and Eastern Europe, we help to facilitate Japanese companies as they establish themselves in these markets and form strong economic bonds within the region. Conversely, JETRO Vienna is a major player in assisting Austrian companies with their business ventures in Japan and provides support and resources.”
“In light of this year’s milestone 150th anniversary, we are dedicated to continuing the success of the Austrian-Japanese relationship and fostering the momentum of growing markets in the region. Furthermore, JETRO Vienna celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and commemorated half a century of supporting the Austrian and Japanese business communities.”
At the Asia-Europe Summit Meeting in October 2018, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Sebastian Kurz, the chancellor of Austria. Both heads of state agreed that this milestone year is an opportunity to foster the momentum of economic relations between Austria and Japan and welcomed the entry into force of a new tax convention to encourage investment and economic exchange.
The celebration of our 150th anniversary is a milestone we see as a springboard to strengthen the friendship between us,” said Koinuma. “We want to improve our ties culturally, politically and economically. Currently, there are approximately 110 Japanese companies in Austria.”
The European Union and Japan signed an economic partnership agreement (EPA) on July 17, the Union’s most ambitious agreement with any Asian state.
“The Japan-EU EPA, which will enter into force on Feb. 1, will have a significant impact on free trade and the futures of both countries.”
“The conclusion of the EPA is an important success,” concluded Kneissl. “This agreement was under discussion for several years and was signed at a time when free trade is increasingly being discussed among Western nations. The EPA will create new opportunities for businesses in Europe and Japan. This year’s celebrations will strengthen and intensify our relations even further. Our countries face shared challenges, such as sustainability, health care, smart cities and climate change; these issues offer opportunities for increased cooperation.”