ZAGREB, Aug 15, 2019 – Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlic Radman and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono met in Zagreb on Wednesday evening for talks on boosting bilateral relations, which also includes improving economic cooperation.
Taro Kono is the first Japanese foreign minister to visit Croatia since 1997 – when his father Yohei Kono also visited Zagreb as the Japanese foreign minister. Grlic Radman’ s predecessor Marija Pajcinovic Buric paid an official visit to Japan this past March.
“The main topic of today’s meeting was the bilateral relations. We agreed that these relations are very good and friendly, marked by regular political dialogue and visits of senior officials of both countries, as well as by excellent parliamentary cooperation,” the Croatian minister told the press after the talks.
“We discussed the possibilities for the further strengthening of economic cooperation, which will be definitely facilitated by the entry into force of the double taxation avoidance agreement between Croatia and Japan this September,”Mr. Radman said.
The two countries are also set to conclude an air traffic agreement.
Croatia’s trade surplus with Japan
Glric Radman underscored that Croatia has registered a surplus in the trade with Japan, and added that small and medium-sized businesses have good opportunities in plans to boost the economic cooperation wth Japan. In this context he mentioned the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), signed by the European Union and Japan, which also provides good opportunities for that cooperation. The EPA came into force on February 1 this year and abolishes 97% of tariffs imported from the EU.
The data provided by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce shows that in 2017 trade between Croatia and Japan reached $85.8 million, and Croatia’s exports amounted to $55 million. Last year, trade reached nearly USD 100 million.
According to Grlic Radman, Croatia would like to diversify its exports to Japan, and in this context he mentioned the possibilities for exports of wines, oil, neckties, video games and applications.
“We are particularly proud of our export of high-quality tuna meat, which makes up 80% of total Croatian exports to Japan,” he added.
The minister said that Croatia “is committed to improving its business and investment climate”, calling on Japanese businesses to invest in his country.
Currently, 24 Japanese companies do business in Croatia. One of them has acquired the Kali Tuna company at the price of $33 million, while Yazaki,a worldwide operating automotive supplier from Japan, has opened a research and development centre in Croatia.
The Japanese minister expressed hope that the bilateral economic cooperation would improve in other fields apart from the tuna export.
He said he was looking forward to a higher number of Japanese investors in the manufacturing sector, IT and in high-tech industries, and praised Croatia’s human resources.
Croatia’s network of ports and railways can make the country a gateway for Croatian companies towards east and central Europe, Kono said.
The two ministers expressed satisfaction with cooperation in the tourist trade.
Grlic Radman thanked his Japanese counterpart for Japan’s strong support to Croatia’s OECD membership bid.
He informed Kono of Croatia’s preparation for taking over the rotating presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2020.
He reiterated that Croatia is committed to efforts aimed at enabling western Balkan counties to join the European Union and to the stability of that region.
Kono said that Japan strongly supported EU aspirations of Western Balkan countries and would like to help them in that regard.
“Japan is committed to supporting social and economic reforms in Western Balkan countries and inter-regional cooperation through Initiative for Cooperation with the Western Balkans,” the Japanese minister said.
In January 2018 during his visit to Belgrade, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed that Initiative, underscoring the importance of the Western Balkan region for the stability of Europe and the international community.
Kono said that Japan would be glad to offer assistance and to closely cooperate wth Croatia in the promotion of the admission of Western Balkan countries to the EU. Before arriving in Zagreb, Kono visited Bulgaria and Slovenia, and the next two stops of his regional tour are Serbia and Italy.