Dr Akima Umezawa, Consul General of Japan in Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

What initiatives have you undertaken to improve trade ties between the two nations?

Japan is the third biggest importer for the UAE. A quarter of Japan’s oil import comes from the UAE. Trade of Japanese automobiles, automobile spare parts and electronics represents a large portion of the UAE’s non-oil sector. Japan expects trade of foods, agricultural products and medical equipment to move up as the next highly potential fields. The government of Japan has set the nation’s 2019 goal for agricultural, forestry and fishery products, and food exports to total over JPY 1 trillion or $8.9 billion (Dh33 billion).

Currently, 337 Japanese companies are operating in the UAE, with the number increasing every year. Recently, the Japanese Small and Medium Enterprise Agency and JETRO opened the UAE-Japan SME Platform in Dubai to attract more Japanese SMEs to the UAE. I expect further development in Japan-UAE economic relations through combining public and private sector strengths.

What activities are you planning to organise this year to enhance cultural ties?

Many UAE nationals show a strong interest in Japanese culture and there are huge demands for Japanese cultural activities in the UAE. Last month, we had a New Year reception at my residence, where we showcased traditions and customs associated with Japanese New Year celebrations. I am planning to hold other cultural activities to promote Japanese cuisine, sweets as well as Wagyu beef. I believe, cultural exchange should be interactive. I have had the chance to have business talks with the University City of Sharjah twice and moderated a session at the World Tolerance Summit last year.

How do you plan to improve the lives of Japanese expats in Dubai?

More than 3,000 Japanese expats live in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, as per 2017 estimates. This is the highest number of Japanese who have ever stayed in not only Dubai but also the entire Middle East and North Africa region. The Consulate-General has close partnership with the Japanese community here when it comes to their safety. Every year, we hold a meeting, Security Consultation and Liaison Committee, with the Japanese business community at my residence. It is our duty to support Japanese residents and tourists at any time and in any situation. We regularly send informative messages to Japanese nationals living in the UAE. I would like to make my residence a hub connecting Japanese companies with companies in the UAE.