Japan has been negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) in a bid to further expand its ties with the region.
Japan is reportedly planning on holding talks with the Gulf Cooperation Council in early September as Tokyo scrambles to secure a stable energy supply, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported on Sunday.
Citing diplomatic sources, the report said the Japanese-Gulf meeting would take place at the level of foreign ministers, with the anticipated attendance of Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi. The top Japanese diplomat is also considering visits to Egypt and Jordan, the sources said.
The report made no mention of a specific date and the Japanese government has yet to publicly comment on the reported discussions.
The reports come weeks after Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio embarked on a regional tour that included Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Currently, Japan is heavily dependant on crude oil from the GCC, which represents more than 90% of its supply.
The Japanese official previously said his visit to Qatar represented an excellent opportunity to engage in discussions aimed at reinforcing bilateral cooperation.
Japan is among a number of Asian buyers that share long-term contracts with Qatar for liquified natural gas (LNG). Tokyo is also the largest LNG buyer in the world, importing 74,463,881 tonnes in 2020. Last year, Tokyo’s imports reached 71.99 million tonnes, overtaking China as one of the biggest importers of LNG.
Notably, Japan became Qatar’s first LNG customer in the late 1990’s, when the country made its first sale and purchase agreement with Japan’s Chubu Electric for 4 tonnes of the gas per annum.
“For many years, the stable supply of LNG and oil from Qatar has supported Japan’s economic growth, allowing Japan and Qatar to steadily develop a mutually beneficial relationship. Since the 1990s, Japanese companies have contributed to the full-scale construction of LNG plants in Qatar,” Kishida said at the time.
Aside from energy, Japan has been negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) in a bid to further expand its ties with the region. The matter was among a range of key topics in discussions between the GCC’s Secretary General Jasem Mohamed Al-Budaiwi and the Japanese prime minister during his Gulf tour.
Japan and the GCC held initial talks on the FTA in 2006 before they paused in 2009 after both sides failed to reach an agreement on issues that included tariff eliminations. Tokyo does not impose tariffs on GCC goods whereas the bloc imposes a 5% tariff on most Japanese products.