MADRID – The relationship between Japan and Latin America is an old one based on cooperation in technology, the environment and social assistance in the region from which the Asian island nation gets raw materials, despite the fact that trade totaled only $60 billion in 2018, much below China’s trade with the region.
After World War II, Japan sought to expand its relations with other countries and despite the fact that its geographical location does not favor this, it became the oldest Asian partner for several countries in Latin America, where it buys raw materials like petroleum, natural gas, minerals and food and sells mainly high technology products and automobiles.
Therefore, the presence of several leaders from Latin America, where more than two million people of Japanese origin live, is very important at the Oct. 22 ceremony to enthrone Japan’s new emperor, the 59-year-old Naruhito, a ceremony to be attended by dignitaries and heads of state from more than 190 countries.
Traveling to Japan for the ceremony from this hemisphere will be the presidents of Brazil (Jair Bolsonaro), Panama (Laurentino Cortizo) and Guatemala (Jimmy Morales); the vice presidents of Argentina (Gabriela Michetti), Paraguay (Hugo Velazquez Moreno) and El Salvador (Felix Ulloa); Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo; the vice president of Cuba’s Council of Ministers, Roberto Morales Ojeda; Peruvian Culture Minister Francisco Petrozzi and the first lady of Costa Rica, Claudia Dobles.
Relations between Brazil and Japan date back to 1908, and since then the South American giant has had the region’s largest community of Japanese origin numbering 1.9 million people.
However, the economic playing field between the two countries has deteriorated in recent years, with Brazil’s trade with Japan declining from $15 billion in 2011 to $8 billion in 2018, in large part due to China’s influence in the region.
Regarding Panama, Japan is one of the four major users of the Panama Canal, is an important customer and a strong player in the Colon Free Zone. The trade balance between Japan and Panama was about $262 million in 2018.
The relationship between Tokyo and Lima is the oldest in South America at 120 years, during which time there has been a considerable migration from Japan to the South American country that has strengthened Tokyo’s cultural influence there. Currently, more than 100,000 Japanese-Peruvians live in Peru.
Both Japan and Peru are veteran members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, along with Chile and Mexico.
With relations dating back 131 years, Mexico and Japan emphasize that since the adoption of their Economic Association Agreement bilateral trade has risen to more than $22 billion by 2018. The Asian nation is the fourth largest trade partner for Mexico and its largest Asian and Pacific investor.