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Abe, Juncker sign connectivity partnership

30 September 2019

Abe-Juncker sign Connectivity Partnership

On 27 September 2019, Jean-Claude Juncker and Shinzo Abe signed a connectivity partnership designed to boost cooperation between the EU and Japan on infrastructure projects. 

Building on its Connectivity Strategy of last September, Juncker said the EU wanted to do more with Asia and specifically Japan, a likeminded country. He praised Japan’s contribution to the rules-based international order and said that there were limitless possibilities to future cooperation.

Abe welcomed the EU’s initiative and said that Japan shared the EU’s approach to promoting rules-based connectivity that is sustainable across the board – fiscally, economically, socially and environmentally.

In a broad ranging speech he praised the strengthening of EU-Japan relations through the recent strategic partnership agreements – covering political and economic affairs. ‘Nothing would serve Japan’s interests more than a strong and united Europe’ as it shared so many common values with Japan. The EU and Japan were natural partners in promoting connectivity around the world. 

Japan was prepared to invest in ten African countries each year to offer training in sovereign debt and risk management. Japan was also ready to offer assistance to the Western Balkans to improve their environment. He also mentioned the importance of freedom of navigation in all regions.

Abe and Juncker were the key speakers at a major connectivity forum that brought together a range of political leaders plus bankers and industrialists. The forum highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships in developing mutually agreed, interoperable standards and norms to underpin 21st century transport, energy, digital and human connectivity.

The Finnish prime minister, Antii Rinne, emphasized the importance of connectivity in tackling climate change, a top priority for the presidency. He also mentioned the human dimension of connectivity – plus transport, energy, digital, education, and innovation. Connectivity must be global and called for partnerships with Africa, India, ASEAN, Korea and Central Asia. The Arctic should also be a priority. ‘We should be able to provide the scale of finance needed in the wider world, with conditions that are competitive, while respecting international norms and a level playing field.’

Some commentators have viewed the EU-Japan connectivity agreement as a riposte to China’s Belt and Road Initiative but EU officials said that there was no contradiction. The important point, said one key advisor, was to ensure that connectivity with whichever country was based on agreed international rules and standards.