Thus Japan has become a strategic partner for Italy

For Meloni and Kishida a meeting and a working lunch longer than expected, to underline the “very productive” climate. The two leaders announced the strengthening of bilateral relations and a foreign-defence consultation mechanism which should meet for the first time this year. Only a month ago, with the British Sunak, the signing of the agreement for the new jet, which can become a driving force for industrial cooperation

Today is a historic day for relations between Italy and Japan. The President of the Council Giorgia Meloni welcomed the prime minister Fumio Kishida at Palazzo Chigi. A long and cordial conversation followed by a business lunch. In the midst of some quick statements to the press with an important announcement: the two countries have decided to “raise our relations to the level of a strategic partnership, a significant step which implies strengthening our contacts at every level and opening up new perspectives for our citizens and our companies”, explained Meloni. A bilateral Foreign-Defence consultation mechanism will soon be launched and should meet for the first time this year.

Japan, the prime minister declared to the press, is “a friendly nation” and a “partner of central and strategic importance for Italy’s interests”. “It is important that our countries, bound by mutual trust and common purpose, advance stable cooperation in trade, investment, research and development,” said Kishida at the second stage of his diplomatic tour in Europe and America to prepare the ground for the May G7 in Hiroshima.

It was the first bilateral agreement between the two leaders, who met in November on the sidelines of the G20 in Bali, Indonesia. Appointment then skipped due to developments in the war in Ukraine (missiles dropped in Poland). The meeting and the working lunch lasted longer than expected, demonstrating a “very productive” atmosphere. This is what a Japanese diplomatic source described before leaving for the United Kingdom, with which Japan recently signed a reciprocal agreement to facilitate the access of military personnel between the two countries.

“A strong convergence of views on the main points of the Japanese presidency of the G7” emerged from the meeting, Meloni explained, underlining that in 2024 Italy will take over the leadership of the club. At the G7 level, Kishida said, “it is necessary to show firm determination in condemning the atomic threat and defending a free and open international order. In particular, to be united in the face of Russian aggression and to continue and strengthen both the severe sanctions against Russia and the decisive support for Ukraine”.

The war had a strong impact on Western public opinion but also on governments. The same can be said of China’s assertiveness. And the commonality of view represents an important factor in strengthening relations between Italy and Japan. As well as between the Euro-Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific whose securities are “inseparable”, as Kishida declared after appreciating the Italian interest in the Indo-Pacific and Meloni’s support for the new national security documents published last month.

The agreement signed a month ago by the governments of Italy, the United Kingdom and Japan for the construction of a sixth generation combat aircraft (Global combat air programme) can represent a driving force for relations between Rome and Tokyo. The program “will have important repercussions on the productive sectors, also in the civil sector, and in the field of scientific research”, said Meloni. “I expect,” explained Kishida, “that this collaboration will stimulate cooperation between the industries of the respective countries, trigger wider effects in society and the economy, and lay the foundations for medium- and long-term bilateral cooperation in the context of safety”. Among the sectors of interest for bilateral cooperation, the Japanese prime minister mentioned diplomacy, investment, railways and cinema.

In trade, relations are solid, thanks also to the economic partnership agreement between Japan and the European Union in force since 1 February 2019 (this is the largest bilateral free trade agreement of the European Union). Trade between Italy and Japan, respectively the eighth and third largest economy in the world, is worth over 12 billion. It is growing and has important margins in sectors that are still little explored: energy (ecological and solar, in addition to hydrogen) and infrastructure. The step that can now be taken concerns industries and has a potential catalyst in the Gcap (program for the integration between Anglo-Italian Tempest and Japanese FX). The academic collaboration between the two countries is strong but there are important opportunities to develop industrial collaborations in crucial sectors such as space and aerospace. Now the right push is needed politically and diplomatically both from Japan and from Italy, whose Asian efforts have in recent times been excessively concentrated on China, with a signature on the memorandum of understanding on the Silk Road which gave few of the fruits hoped for in the trade but brought several security concerns.

The G7 ministerials can be the right occasion to deepen relations and consultations. The defense sector is not included in the G7 agenda. But diplomacies are already at work for a visit to Japan by Guido Crosetto, defense minister. It could be part of a wider Asian trip with a stop in Indonesia to meet his counterpart Prabowo Subiantofrom which, on the occasion of the December bilateral meeting in Rome, “the appreciation for Italy’s commitment in the current geostrategic framework and for its technological excellence” had come.

Thus Japan has become a strategic partner for Italy –