External Affairs Secretary visits Japan and Republic of Korea

Fiona Hyslop's reflections on a five day visit to Japan and Korea to strengthen economic and cultural links.

The programme of activity, delivered by Scottish Development International (SDI) and the Scottish Government, took place from 2 – 6 July in Tokyo, Yokohama and Seoul.

Last week I travelled to Japan and South Korea for a series of engagements to strengthen Scotland's links with our international partners. Building on the work undertaken during my previous engagements in East Asia, this visit was an opportunity to explore key opportunities for collaboration between our nations in areas including trade and investment, culture, education, tourism and sport.

As Brexit uncertainty continues to impact on business confidence – and as we face the threat of losing membership of the Single Market and Custom Union – it is increasingly important that we continue to engage with international partners and build trade and business links.

As highlighted by a recent EY Attractiveness Survey, Scotland is one of the most alluring locations for foreign direct investment outside of London. Scottish Government visits such as this are therefore critical to promote our unique assets to international audiences.

This is why during this visit I met with key business representatives across a range of sectors including renewables, subsea engineering and life sciences – from Mitsubishi Electric to the Nippon Foundation – to acknowledge the significant contribution these businesses make to Scotland's economy and to reiterate the message that Scotland is an excellent partner to do business with.

The ties between Scotland and Japan date back 150 years to a time when Scots engineers helped the Pacific nation kick-start its own industrial revolution. The links between our countries have since gone from strength to strength – so that, to date, 90 Japanese-owned businesses at 135 Scottish sites employ over 6,000 staff, generating a Scottish turnover of more than £1.8 billion.

In 2016, exports to Japan increased by more than 10 per cent to £460m, making Japan the 19th top destination for Scottish exports. With foreign direct investment into Scotland from Japan accounting for almost six per cent of all inward investment over the past decade, I believe there is scope for even closer collaboration – to seize shared opportunities and meet common challenges as both our countries look to address the growing needs of the global market.

Following the launch of our Scotland is Now campaign, this visit was an opportunity to further promote Scotland as a top destination to visit, live, work, invest and study. I held tourism events in both Tokyo and Seoul. I also signed a joint declaration of co-operation between Scotland and Yokohama, the second largest city in Japan and host to two of Scotland's Rugby World Cup games in 2019.

Building on the constructive meeting I held with Yokohama's mayor during my last visit, this declaration is an excellent opportunity to exchange knowledge and expertise, while strengthening existing ties in the areas of education, sports, culture and marine industries as Japan builds to the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020.

In addition, I met with local representatives and culture stakeholders to share best practices and discuss how culture in Scotland plays a vital role in shaping our cultural identity, strengthening business links and promoting our country internationally.

While in Tokyo I met with representatives from Japan's Ricca Ricca Festival, the annual international festival of performing arts for young people held in Okinawa. This year, the festival will focus on Scotland as a result of a joint funding initiative between Ricca Ricca, Creative Scotland, Scottish Government and British Council Scotland. As we celebrate Scotland's Year of Young People 2018, this represents a great opportunity for Scotland's world leading children's theatre to showcase their talent to international audiences beyond our borders.

I also met with Japanese city leaders in Tokyo to discuss how Scotland's arts community can help Japan shape its cultural programme for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Japanese prefectures are now looking to deliver a world-class programme of cultural activity as part of the Olympics and are looking to Scotland for inspiration. It was a pleasure to discuss Scotland's use of culture as a promotional tool in domestic and international markets while we get ready to welcome our Japanese partners to Scotland this August during Edinburgh's peak festival season.

I was delighted to witness the signing of an important agreement between Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd, a major Japanese industrial corporation, and the Underwater Centre near Fort William. It will see the world's first test of an autonomous underwater vehicle take place in Scotland. Kawasaki will carry out a verification test of a prototype AUV equipped with a robot arm for subsea pipeline inspection.

This visit also represented an opportunity to promote our world-leading universities and to announce that the Scottish Government flagship Saltire Scholarship programme will open to Japanese postgraduates. Currently available to students from Canada, China, Pakistan and the US, the fund offers 50 scholarships worth £8,000 per year, co-funded by the Scottish Government and partner universities.

In South Korea, I met with key tourism leaders and travel media, an ideal opportunity to further promote business and travel contacts between our two countries. I also met companies that are keen to build on their trade and investment in Scotland.

In 2017, Scotland exported 744 million of goods to South Korea, a 165 per cent increase on the previous year. Korean company Doosan Babcock is a key investor in Scotland, employing approximately 1,200 people across eight different sites, with the main facility in Renfrew.

At government level, I focussed on developing links on rural development and cultural issues.

Scotland has strengths and qualities that make it a unique location for international cooperation and investment. My message to our friends in Japan and the Republic of Korea is that, whatever your reason for coming to Scotland, you will be offered the warmest of welcomes here and will find a bold and positive country shaping a progressive, pioneering and inclusive future.

Back to top