Quick access :

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.

Cooperation between the two countries is based on the strategic dialogue held at regular intervals alternately in France and Japan, and which was raised at the level of Foreign Ministers in January 2012. Regular consultations also take place at the level of the Secretaries-General of Foreign Affairs. The dialogue on policy issues and defence is also dynamic and was strengthened by establishing a “2+2 dialogue” between the Foreign and Defence Ministers in January 2014.

The Strategic Partnership between the European Union (EU) and Japan is gaining in substance. Two negotiations, launched in March 2013, are carried out in parallel: on a Framework Agreement (Strategic Partnership Agreement) and an Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and Japan, for which negotiations were launched in March 2013. On the occasion of the 2014 EU-Japan Summit, the two parties agreed to further develop their cooperation and coordination on 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 … to strengthen [the] Strategic Partnership in Research and Innovation”.

Relations at bilateral level are based on the 2013-2018 Roadmap adopted during the French President’s State visit to Japan in June 2013, which seeks to strengthen the “exceptional partnership” in all areas. In this context, an annual summit between the two countries has been established to increase exchanges at the highest level. The Japanese Prime Minister, Mr Shinzo Abe, visited France in May 2014.

The fourth session of strategic dialogue was held in January 2014. The first 2+2 dialogue at ministerial level was held at the same time. The second session of the 2+2 ministerial dialogue, in which the French Foreign Minister participated jointly with the Defence Minister, took place in March 2015. An intergovernmental agreement on the transfer of defence equipment and technology was signed on that occasion.

The French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development visited Japan on 4-5 October 2014. After hosting his Japanese counterpart in France in January 2015, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development visited Japan from 13 to 15 March 2015.

This was followed by the visit of the French Prime Minister, Mr Manuel Valls, to Japan from 3 to 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. This conference was also an opportunity for a meeting between the then French Foreign Minister, Mr Laurent Fabius, and the Japanese Environment Minister, Ms Tamayo Marukawa.

The French Foreign Minister, Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault, received his Japanese counterpart, Mr Fumio Kishida, on 20 March 2016. He also took part in the meeting of G7 Foreign Ministers in Hiroshima (10-11 April 2016) and was received in Tokyo by the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr Shinzo Abe, and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Fumio Kishida.

The Japanese Prime Minister, Mr Shinzo Abe, 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.

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 12ᵗʰ-largest supplier, 11ᵗʰ-largest customer and 23ʳᵈ-largest trade deficit in 2014. The gradual reduction in France’s trade deficit with Japan since the mid-2000s has accelerated: it dropped from €3 billion in 2011 to below €1 billion in 2014. Our main exports are in the fields of agrifood (including wine), pharmaceuticals, aeronautics and clothing. In 2015, the bilateral trade deficit returned to €2 billion (+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 €146 billion in 2014 (+7.5%), representing 3.5% of GDP, the lowest ratio of any OECD country. In this context, France continues to rank third in terms of stock invested in Japan (€23.3 billion, +15.4%), after the United States and the Netherlands. Conversely, Japan is the second-largest source of FDI in the world (€905 billion, +14.2%). 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 leading Asian investor in France. 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 has also continued to take place during the crisis: 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.

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.

Website of the French Institute in Japan

Decentralized cooperation

Almost 75 decentralized cooperation projects now bring together French and Japanese local governments, most often by way of twinning programmes. 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: 17 October 2016

In this section