France and Japan


Political relations

France and Japan maintain regular political dialogue on all major international issues: regulation of the economic and financial system, efforts to improve global economic governance in the context of G20 meetings, the fight against climate change, and international security issues, such as the fight against terrorism and piracy, peacekeeping, and regional crises. There are frequent political contacts in the margins of major multilateral meetings. France supports Japan’s goal to assume new responsibilities on the international scene.

At bilateral level, the relationship is part of the 2013-2018 Roadmap adopted during the French President’s State visit to Japan in June 2013, aimed at strengthening the “exceptional partnership” in all areas. In this context, exchanges at the highest level were strengthened by holding an annual Summit between the two countries.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls visited Japan from 3 ro 5 October 2015. This visit, which marked the launch of the France-Japan Year of Innovation 2015-2016, was an opportunity to adopt a joint statement on innovation. It also saw the adoption of a communiqué on high-level dialogue on Franco-Japanese cooperation in the field of nuclear energy and a Franco-Japanese plan for sustainable development, health and security in Africa.

The Japanese Prime Minister, Mr Shinzo Abe, travelled to France for the Paris Climate Conference (29 and 30 November 2015). During this visit, he met with the President of the French Republic and the French Prime Minister. He once again made a visit to France on 2 May 2016, as part of his European tour to prepare the G7, meeting with the President of the French Republic.

The French President visited Japan on 26-27 May 2016 for the G7 leaders’ Summit in Ise-Shima.

The French Foreign Minister, Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault, received his Japanese counterpart, Mr Fumio Kishida, on 20 March 2016. He also visited Japan to participate in a meeting of G7 Foreign Ministers in Hiroshima (10-11 April) and carry out a bilateral visit.

The strategic dialogue held at regular intervals alternately in France and Japan was raised to the level of the Foreign Ministers in January 2012. The sixth session was held in Paris on 6 January 2017, before the third session of the politico-military dialogue at the level of Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers (“2+2”), established in 2014. The intergovernmental agreement on the transfer of defence equipment and technology, signed during the second “2+2” Dialogue session in April 2015, entered into force on 2 December 2016.

The French Minister of State for Development and Francophonie, André Vallini, participated in the sixth TICAD conference in Nairobi on 27 and 28 August 2016. A joint event organized on this occasion helped progress to be made on the implementation of the Franco-Japanese plan for sustainable development, health and security in Africa, with, in particular, the signature of a tripartite statement of intent between the French Development Agency (AFD), the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Cote d’Ivoire regarding cooperation in the area of sustainable cities in Abidjan, as well as agreements between French and Japanese businesses.

Two sets of negotiations, launched in March 2013, are being conducted in parallel, on a framework agreement (Strategic Partnership Agreement) and an Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Japan, with the aim of strengthening the strategic partnership between the European Union and Japan. On the occasion of the 2014 EU-Japan Summit, the two parties agreed to develop their cooperation and coordination in the framework of EU missions in North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. The last Japan-EU Summit took place in Tokyo on 29 May 2015. It saw the adoption of a “Joint Vision toward a new strategic partnership in Research and Innovation”.

Economic relations

Japan is the world’s third-largest economy and our second-largest trading partner in Asia after China. It is the leading Asian investor and the fifth-largest creator of jobs in France. France is the second-largest European exporter to Japan after Germany.

Japan was France’s twelfth-largest supplier, and its twelfth-largest customer in 2015, making it France’s second-biggest Asian partner after China. The reduction of France’s trade deficit with Japan since the mid-2000s has accelerated and fallen from €3 billion in 2011 to below €1 billion in 2014. Our main export items are agrifood (including wine), pharmaceuticals, aviation equipment, and clothing. In 2015, the bilateral trade deficit returned to €2 billion (up 108%), mainly due to the uncertain timing of aeronautical deliveries.

Japan is the leading destination for French investment in Asia and this success helps to compensate for our ongoing trade deficit. Traditionally, Japan is not very open to foreign investment, with total incoming FDI stock of €141.8 billion in 2015 (down 0.1% vs 2014), representing 4.1% of GDP, the lowest ratio of any developed country, compared with an average of 37.3% according to UNCTAD. Conversely, Japan is the fifth-largest source of FDI in the world at €1,106 billion (up 6.5% vs 2014). In this context, France continues to rank third in terms of stock invested in Japan (€23 billion, up 15.4%), after the United States and the Netherlands. The number of French companies established in Japan has stabilized at around 400 (compared with just 200 in 1980), providing 59,000 jobs.

Japan is the biggest Asian investor in France with €14.5 billion invested in 2015 (up 17% vs 2014). France is the second-largest recipient of Japanese investments that create jobs in Europe (18% of the total), after the United Kingdom (27%) and ahead of Germany (12%), with projects in sectors with high added value, such as the car industry, electronics and agrifood. There is a very strong Japanese presence in France, where 450 companies employ around 71,500 people. Japanese investment in France is particularly appreciated for its quality and compliance with social and environmental standards.

After the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011, France decided to send humanitarian and technical assistance (blankets, drinking water, medicines, radiation protection and radioactivity measuring equipment, etc.) on a large scale. It also expressed its readiness to provide additional assistance to Japan during the reconstruction phase.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

One of France’s top priorities in Japan is university and scientific cooperation, organized around 250 inter-university agreements concluded between French higher education institutions and research organizations and Japanese partners. However, abolishing the compulsory second language in competitive university entrance examinations has reduced the learning of French in Japan.

Scientific and technological cooperation is central to partnerships with Japan, a country which spends 3.7% of its GDP on research. Bringing French competitiveness centres and Japanese clusters closer together is a priority for both countries.

Nuclear power is a key area of cooperation. The strong similarity between French and Japanese nuclear programmes helps to develop very active industrial partnerships in many areas.

Cooperation also continued during the crisis of 2011: Areva sent 100 tonnes of boron in order to limit risks associated with the state of Fukushima reactors, and radiation protection and measurement devices. It also deployed nuclear decontamination experts who joined the crisis centre established at Fukushima by the Japanese Government together with the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

Nuclear cooperation now focuses on security, on managing the consequences of the Fukushima accident, and on developing a joint bid for third countries (ATMEA reactor). The France-Japan Nuclear Cooperation Committee held its last meeting in November 2015.

In 2014, the 90ᵗʰ anniversary of the France-Japan House in Tokyo underlined the strength of French-Japanese cultural cooperation, which relies largely on the sponsorship of large companies.

On 24 November 2016, the Japanese Prime Minister announced that a series of cultural events would be organized in France on the theme of “Japonism 2018: souls in harmony”, which coincides with the 160th anniversary of diplomatic relations between France and Japan in 2018. This large-scale event, organized by the Japanese Foundation from June 2018 to February 2019, will showcase traditional and contemporary Japanese culture through large exhibitions and artistic events.

Website of the Institut français (French Institute) in Japan

Decentralized cooperation

Almost 75 decentralized cooperation projects now bring together French and Japanese local governments, most often by way of twinnings. They address concrete issues of common interest, such as transport, the environment and urban planning.

The First French-Japanese Meetings on Decentralized Cooperation took place in October 2008 in Nancy, in the context of the commemoration of the 150ᵗʰ anniversary of diplomatic relations. This event served to give French-Japanese relations a new dimension and to generate innovative projects from the regions and the French Departments and their Japanese equivalents, in the presence of many elected officials and representatives from both countries. After meetings in Kanazawa (May 2010), Chartres and Compiègne (August 2012) and Takamatsu (October 2014), the fifth Franco-Japanese Meetings on Decentralized Cooperation were held in Tours on 5-6 October 2016 and focused on the theme of innovation.

In response to the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, the French United Local Governments (Cités Unies France – CUF), in charge of organizing the Meetings, decided to create a special emergency fund to be financed by any local government wishing to respond to this call for solidarity.

Updated: 1 February 2017

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