Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Saudi Arabian Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman affirmed Thursday their resolve to work together to achieve planned reforms of the Saudi economy with the potential to deliver significant benefits to Japan.
The deputy crown prince, a son of King Salman bin Abdulaziz, doubles as defense minister.
As the chair of an economic development deliberation committee, the prince oversaw compilation of the “Saudi Vision 2030” growth strategy released in April, the implementation of which could offer Japanese firms a chance to advance into the kingdom’s economy as it privatizes state-owned entities.
In their roughly 45-minute talks, Abe and the prince discussed ways Japan can contribute to the realization of the growth strategy, through which the kingdom aims to diversify its heavily oil-dependent economy, a Japanese official said after the meeting.
Japan sources around 30 percent of its oil imports from the kingdom.
According to the official, Abe said Japan wants to contribute to the strategy in a variety of fields, including investment centering on manufacturing, the promotion of small and midsize enterprises, the development of human resources, the promotion of culture, the arts and sports.
Abe and Mohammed bin Salman agreed to launch a bilateral “Vision 2030” cooperative group, which will hold its first meeting in Riyadh next month to discuss both the Saudi strategy and Japan’s own growth strategy.
The Japanese government signed several deals with the Saudi delegation Thursday, pledging cooperation in a range of economic and cultural fields, including in the energy sector.
According to the Japanese official, the pair discussed regional developments in Asia and the Middle East. While declining to go into detail, the Japanese official said Abe explained Japan’s concerns over North Korea’s nuclear and missile development efforts and the situations in the East and South China seas where China’s increasing activities have raised tensions.
The prince showed understanding of Japan’s stance on the matters, the official said.
The prince was appointed defense minister upon his father’s ascension in January last year, and was given his current royal title in April.
Earlier in the day, he met with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. He is scheduled to hold talks with Defense Minister Tomomi Inada on Friday afternoon.
Earlier Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s Economy and Planning Minister Adel Faqih expressed hope in a meeting with his counterpart in Tokyo of attracting more investment to the country through the economic reforms.
Faqih, energy minister Khalid al-Falih and commerce and investment minister Majid al-Qusaibi met with Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko at his office.
Faqih said in the meeting he hopes to make suggestions during the visit that would bring economic development to both countries.
Seko, for his part, suggested Japan could cooperate to spur business investment, saying, “The two countries are strongly tied by relations of trust,” referring to Saudi Arabia’s stable energy supply and Japan’s business presence in the Middle Eastern country.
Al-Falih attended a forum organized by the Japan External Trade Organization and others at a Tokyo hotel Thursday where Japanese energy firms and trading companies expressed their support for Saudi Arabia’s economic reform plans.
Calling for an expansion of economic cooperation, al-Falih said Saudi Arabia is aiming to diversify its industrial landscape and he believes there would be a synergy effect with Japanese businesses.