The maiden edition of the Liberia-Japan Dialogue has ended in Monrovia with both countries committing to several core bilateral and business investment issues.
Held at the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dialogue came out of an official visit President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf paid to Japan from June 1-3, 2013 during which time she and Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe met on the side-line of the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD-V) and agreed to further strengthen Japanese-Liberian economic and political ties.
A Foreign Ministry release says the Dialogue brought together participants from the Japanese Business sector, led by Japanese Ambassador to Liberia, Naoto Nikai, and officials of the Liberian Government and Liberia's private sector executives led by Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan.
The Dialogue focused on enhancing trade, commerce and investment opportunities between Liberia and Japan where participants discussed the importance of Japanese investment to Liberia and vice versa, and initiated a Policy Dialogue between the two governments.
Foreign Minister Ngafuan, Commerce Minister Axel M. Addy, Japanese Ambassador Nikai and Mr. Sachio Kaneki, Senior Vice President of Mitsubishi Corporation gave the opening remarks at the ceremony that was held under the theme, "Harnessing Bilateral Partnership for Robust Private Sector Development in Liberia".
In his opening remarks, Minister Ngafuan stated that the Dialogue marked a milestone and a major turning point in Liberia's drive for Economic and Development Diplomacy: "We have come to concretize our commitment to the building of a vibrant private sector in Liberia. We are here to discuss how to deepen bilateral trade to practical presentations and exchanges of ideas to foster trade and investment."
He described the Dialogue as critical to the restoration of direct trade and investment between the two countries which would serve as a fulcrum from people to people relationship as well as business to business partnership.
He stressed the importance of the Dialogue which is in line with Liberia's Agenda for Transformation as Japan is one Liberia's longest standing partners in the Asian region and was one of the first countries to resume diplomatic ties to Liberia after the election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The Liberian Foreign Minister then admonished participants to focus on relevant issues that will lead to the increase on bilateral cooperation, increase trade volume and make Liberia a strategic trading partner to Japan.
He hailed many Japanese contributions to Liberia which ranges from power to infrastructural developments including the donation of a 15,000 metro tons of petroleum products, its contribution of a 10 mega watts power to the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), the ongoing construction of the Somalia Drive, the Japanese Food Aid that have been financing major projects in the country, among others.
Minister Ngafuan who urged Liberian and Japanese business executives to identify areas of common interests and activities within the .framework of business and investment promotions added, "Lastly, in furtherance of our ties and as a way to cement our cherished relationship with Japan, we look forward to the promised reopening of the Japanese Embassy in Monrovia which will further bolster the friendship and ties between Liberia and Japan and will ease the process of acquiring visas and boost trade and investment between our two countries."
Japanese Ambassador Nikai, in his remarks, noted that the Dialogue is one of the Japanese Government's initiatives at the TICAD V to promote the economic growth of Africa through encouraging business activities between Japan and Africa.
Commenting on Japan's determination to invest in Liberia, the Japanese Envoy added, "As you see in my delegation today, Japanese private companies are greatly interested in exploring their business opportunities in Africa... ... ... .I, in connection to that, expect that the Government will also undertake particular efforts in creating business-friendly environments for them so that they will be able to smoothly introduce themselves to the marketplace in Liberia".
Liberia's Commerce Minister Addy, for his part, hoped that the opportunities for exchanges will lead to new beginning of strong and responsible partnerships between the business communities of both countries: "The essence of these two days is that the magic will happen and you will leave here with clear path to investment opportunities exploring new partnerships with the domestic private sector."
Mr. Kaneki, for his part, appreciated both governments for such what he called a remarkable decision that brought together the private sector from each country. While encouraging his array of Japanese companies present at the occasion to explore new investment opportunities in Liberia, the Mitsubishi Corporation Senior Vice President added that the economic relationship between Liberia and Japan is not new: "In Japan, Liberia has been known as the most famous country for business registration", further hailing Liberia's maritime program which he noted has hundreds of ships flying the Liberian flag which covers about 12.5% of total operating ships in the world.
The day-long event ended with the two countries agreeing on a number of issues, including to enhance mutual understanding and cooperation between the two countries; strengthening Liberia-Japan economic and trade relations; expanding broad-based economic growth and help reduce some of the structural weaknesses of the Liberian economy; enhancing food security through sustainable agriculture; improving critical infrastructures with particular emphasis on road and bridges, seaport, airport, energy, health facilities, schools, and others.
They also agree to promote public-private partnership, increase people-to-people exchanges, develop the technological know-how of Liberian businesses/companies and increase access to market information, and improve Liberia's competitiveness as well as increase employment opportunities, expand exports, and transfer relevant technology and management know-how.
Meanwhile, the Japanese delegation, will on Friday, July 4, 2014, pay a one-day working visit to the Port City of Buchanan, where the Buchanan offices of the National Port Authority (NPA), and the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Corporation (LPRC) will make presentations on the Buchanan Port's commercial pier and LPRC facilities respectively.