KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 8 — Reviving people to people exchange between Japan and Malaysia which has been seriously affected by the Covid-19 pandemic is a top priority for the new Japanese Ambassador to Malaysia Katsuhiko Takahashi.
With such renewed and enhanced exchange once conditions permit, more new Japanese technology could come to Malaysia to further boost the already “very solid base” in their economic relations, he told Bernama in an interview after completing his home quarantine following his arrival to take up his new appointment.
“I want to strengthen these economic relations further, adding more fields of cooperation and deepening the degree of cooperation,” he said adding that his order of priority would be to meet as many Malaysians as possible to hear their views on Japan and discuss the way forward.
Beyond economic ties, such exchange of people would also focus on culture, political education and VIPs.
“There are a lot of areas where we can work together, so I want to identify specific areas once I start to mingle with Malaysians,” added Takahashi.
Prior to his latest appointment, the 58-year-old diplomat was Director-General of Middle Eastern and African Affairs in the Foreign Ministry and Ambassador and Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Takahshi said before coming to Malaysia, he visited major Japanese companies doing business in this country to find out whether they had any problems operating in Malaysia.
“To my surprise, no company said there is a serious problem. This is a very happy thing for us to note. Therefore, my work will be how to improve the already good relations to the better stage.
“There are 30,000 Japanese living in Malaysia and we also have more than 26,000 Malaysians who have studied in Japan under the Look East Policy. Those people are the big assets of the bilateral relations between the two countries, so I’m really lucky to have a strong asset even before starting my career as the Ambassador here,” added Takahashi.
However, he said, Japanese companies continued to invest in Malaysia all these years from the profits they made in the country and if there was one thing that in return, they were also expecting more local incentives so they could invest even more.
Shifting from the traditional core sectors of electronic and electrical manufacturing, Japanese companies are exploring new areas such as renewable energy and climate change.
The 1,500 Japanese companies in Malaysia have so far created 400,000 jobs and many more expected in the coming years,
On education, he said the demand from Malaysians to study in Japan remained strong but Japan’s effort would also focus on the tourism sector where before the pandemic, the number of Malaysians visiting Japan was more than the Japanese visiting Malaysia.
“So I really want to normalise this relation and try to increase visitors from Malaysia to Japan as much as possible once the situation allows this”.
He also gave an update on Japan’s plans to set up a branch campus of the Tsukuba University here, which is set to become the first ever foreign branch campus of a Japanese university.
It is still work in progress but discussions are progressing well and the university is expected to make an official announcement on the latest development.
On a personal note, Takahashi admitted that being an expert on the Middle East, his posting to Malaysia came as a surprise but there were a lot of commonalities between Malaysia and the Middle East.
“So I find being here an Ambassador here will be a challenging one. However, I am looking forward to this posting,” he said.