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Canada-Japan Relations

Japan: Fact SheetJapan* (pdf version, 68 KB)

Canada's Partner in the Pacific

Canada-Japan relations are underpinned by political, economic and cultural ties which are bolstered by common values and mutual positive perceptions. Today, Canada and Japan are partners in numerous international groups and organizations including the G8, G20, APEC, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the OECD. Both Canada and Japan are strongly committed to ensuring continued economic vitality, cooperative political relations, and development in the Asia-Pacific region.

High-level visits help to strengthen bilateral ties. In March 2012, Prime Minister Stephen Harper met in Tokyo with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. The Prime Minister's delegation included former Minister of International Cooperation Beverley Oda, Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Gerry Ritz, and Minister of International Trade Ed Fast, all of whom met with their Japanese counterparts. Prime Minister Harper had previously travelled to Japan for the Yokohama APEC Summit in 2010 and the Toyako G8 Summit in 2008. Former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan came to Canada in 2010 for the Muskoka G8 Summit and the Toronto G20 Summit. Another important event in bilateral relations was the official visit to Canada of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan for 12 days in the summer of 2009. This trip included time spent in the National Capital Region, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria. The visit coincided not only with the 80th anniversary of Canada's diplomatic presence in Japan, but also with the 20th anniversary of His Majesty's accession to the throne and the 50th wedding anniversary of Their Majesties.

Regular exchanges between Canadian and Japanese parliamentarians are another important pillar of the Canada-Japan relationship. The Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group, established by Parliament in 1989, and its Japanese counterpart, the Japan-Canada Diet Friendship League, have held annual consultations since 1989, alternating the location of the meetings between the two countries. The latest session was held in Tokyo in May 2012 and included discussions of trade and economic policy, fiscal and administrative reform, energy and environmental issues, and regional security.

Trade and economic relations between Canada and Japan have been steadily expanding. With a gross domestic product of C$5.8 trillion, Japan is the world's third largest national economy and one of Canada's most important economic and commercial partners. Japan is by far Canada's largest bilateral foreign direct investment (FDI) partner in Asia. Japan's FDI in Canada totalled C$12.8 billion in 2011, coming from approximately 330 Japanese subsidiaries and affiliate companies operating in Canada and employing tens of thousands of Canadians. Canadian investment in Japan is also significant and diverse with about 90 companies that have a permanent Japanese presence, primarily in the automotive, ICT, financial services, and forestry sectors. The stock of Canadian direct investment in Japan in 2011 stood at C$8.4 billion. Japan is also Canada's fifth-largest partner in two-way merchandise trade (second in Asia after China). Canada's exports of goods to Japan totalled C$10.7 billion in 2011 while imports from Japan were C$13 billion. Mineral fuels and oils (mainly coking coal) were Canada's largest exports to Japan, while vehicles and vehicle parts, nuclear machinery, and electrical machinery and equipment were Canada's largest imports from Japan in 2011.

Canada is committed to pursuing new opportunities to deepen trade and economic cooperation with Japan. During Prime Minister Harper's March 2012 visit to Japan, he and Prime Minister Noda launched negotiations toward a bilateral free trade agreement (also known as an economic partnership agreement or EPA). This historic announcement followed the March 7, 2012, release of the "Report of the Joint Study on the Possibility of a Canada-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement". The study summarizes the significant economic gains to be achieved for Canada and Japan through free trade. Estimated GDP gains would be between US$4.4 billion and US$4.9 billion for Japan and between US$3.8 billion and US$9.0 billion for Canada (based on 2010 GDP data). In addition to discussions about free trade, Canadian and Japanese senior officials meet for regular consultations in the context of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC). One of the basic documents that lays the groundwork for bilateral cooperation on economic and trade policy is the "Canada-Japan Economic Framework" signed in 2005.

Canada and Japan have long shared strong political ties, but in recent years these relations have spread into new areas and become more substantive. One important area of growth is peace and security cooperation. At their meeting in March 2012, Prime Minister Harper and Prime Minister Noda announced that Canada and Japan would be furthering negotiations toward a Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (also known as an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement). Such an agreement will facilitate cooperation between Canadian and Japanese forces, notably during joint training exercises and UN peacekeeping missions.

The basis for deepening the partnership between Canada and Japan on regional and global security issues is the "Canada-Japan Joint Declaration on Political, Peace and Security Cooperation", signed by Prime Minister Harper and former Prime Minister Kan on the margins of the Yokohama APEC Summit in 2010. The declaration's centrepiece is the creation of the Political, Peace and Security Subcabinet "2+2" Dialogue, which commits Canada and Japan to undertake regular bilateral meetings between Deputy Minister-level officials responsible for Foreign Affairs and Defence. The first such meeting took place in Tokyo on August 29, 2011, and resulted in agreement to work together on assistance to Afghanistan, peacekeeping, non-proliferation, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, as well as to increase cooperation between the Canadian Forces and the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

Bilateral cooperation on disaster response has taken on particular relevance following the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. The Government of Canada responded to that event by offering its full support to Japan, providing blankets, dosimeters and portable radiation survey meters, while individual Canadians, Canadian companies, and Provincial Governments donated over C$40 million. This support has continued through the recovery period and into the reconstruction phase. The Embassy of Canada to Japan initiated the Hope for Youth scholarship program to give 150 young people affected by the disaster an opportunity to study English or French in Canada. In addition, thanks to the support of Canada's forestry industry and the Province of British Columbia, a C$4.5 million Canada-Tohoku Reconstruction Project will build community facilities in affected towns. This initiative will help to renew the bonds among people with new facilities acting as centerpieces of the region's revival as well as symbols of Canada and Japan's strong friendship.

Canada and Japan enjoy rich cultural and people-to-people linkages at many levels. Popular culture exposes Canadians and Japanese to each other's music, films, arts and sports. Japanese "manga" comics have a huge youth following worldwide and have become Japan's main cultural export, while a number of Canadian musicians enjoy a large fan base in Japan. On the academic front, the ties between the two countries are strong and diverse. The Japanese Association for Canadian Studies has for many years played an important role in informing Japanese students about Canada. In addition, the Japan-Canada Academic Consortium, formed in 2006 by a group of prominent universities in both countries, has helped to improve academic exchanges by offering more mobility options for students. Canada is a popular destination for Japanese students interested in studying abroad at all levels of education. Japanese scholars, well respected in Canada, often receive academic awards supporting their education or research at Canadian institutions. Several Canadian universities are home to centres or programmes for the study of Japan. There are also diverse associations in Canada which promote more informal Japanese language and cultural studies.

Finally, a number of programs exist to facilitate people-to-people exchanges. There are 76 sister city/sister province relationships between Japanese and Canadian communities. In addition, some 500 Canadians are currently enrolled in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme, teaching English in schools across Japan. The Working Holiday Program is also very popular, allowing thousands of Japanese and Canadian youths to enjoy short-term travel and work opportunities in each other's country.

August 2012


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Date Modified:
2013-04-16