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Japan’s Abe in the UAE to boost ties, with 27 companies in tow

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Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) and UAE’s Minister of Economy Sultan Bin Saeed al-Mansoori attend a Japan-UAE Business Forum in Abu Dhabi on April 30, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / KARIM SAHIB

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday hailed cooperation with the United Arab Emirates as a “strategic relationship” on a visit aimed at boosting political and economic ties.

Abe arrived in the oil-rich Gulf state late Sunday on the first leg of a Middle East tour which will also take him to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

“Over the past five years since I last visited Abu Dhabi, our bilateral relations have made dramatic progress to a relationship that has been called a strategic relationship,” Abe told a UAE-Japan business forum.

Top executives from Japan’s leading business groups addressed the forum, highlighting projects underway in UAE and future plans.

“On this visit, we are accompanied by 27 companies representing Japan with a delegation of top business leaders,” Abe said.

The UAE is Japan’s main trading partner in the Middle East, accounting for about a third of Tokyo’s trade in the region.

It is also the second-largest oil supplier to Japan, accounting for almost a quarter of its crude oil needs last year, or 800,000 barrels per day, just after neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Abe praised the renewal of oil concession agreements by Abu Dhabi to Japanese oil companies saying “bilateral relations in the field of energy have been solidified”.

In February, Abu Dhabi’s state energy company ADNOC said it had awarded Japan’s INPEX a 10 percent stake in an offshore oil concession, in a deal worth $600 million.

The new concession, at the offshore Lower Zakum oil field, is for a duration of 40 years. ADNOC also said it had extended INPEX’s 40 percent stakes in Abu Dhabi’s Satah and Umm Al-Dalkh concessions for another 25 years.

In 2017, trade volume between the two countries increased 10.5 percent to $28 billion, with Japan’s exports accounting for $7.2 billion — a drop of 10 percent from the previous year, according to official figures released by the Japanese embassy in Abu Dhabi.

About 95 percent of UAE exports to Japan are oil and related products with the remaining five percent mainly aluminium.

About 60 percent of Japanese exports to UAE are motor vehicles, the figures show.

Abe said economic cooperation between the two countries will be further strengthened by the signing of an investment agreement later on Monday.

In the meantime, a four-party consultative unit comprised of Japan, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians held a meeting at the Dead Sea in Jordan on Sunday night to discuss their “corridor for peace and prosperity” initiative.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters the initiative — which aims to promote regional cooperation including through the creation of an agro-industrial park in the West Bank — was making progress.

“Today, we are witnessing tangible results. Our efforts have finally started to bear fruits,” Kono said.

He said the initiative is vital for economic development in the Palestinian territories and the Jordan valley.


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