Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan has said that the newly established Japan-Liberia Business and Investment Dialogue marked a milestone and a major turning point in Liberia’s drive for Economic and Development Diplomacy.
Giving the official opening remarks of the dialogue at the C. Cecil Dennis auditorium at the Foreign Affairs Ministry yesterday in Monrovia, Minister Ngafuan told the audience: “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.”
The establishment of the Japan-Liberia Dialogue is the result of bilateral discussions held between President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Japanese Prime Minister Abe last year, during the fifth Tokyo International Conference on Africa Development (TICAD V) held in Japan. This was where the idea of a dialogue was given birth. Both leaders discussed the importance of investment in Liberia and agreed to initiate a Policy Dialogue between the two governments.
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. Prominent amongst the executives of the Japanese business delegation was Mr. Sachio Kaneki, Senior Vice President of Mitsubishi Corporation.
Minister Ngafuan, in his opening speech, 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 in bilateral cooperation, increased trade volume and make Liberia a strategic trading partner to Japan.
The Chief Liberian diplomat hailed many Japanese contributions to Liberia, ranging from power to infrastructural developments, including the donation of 15,000 metric tons of petroleum products, the contribution of a 10 megawatts of power to the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), the ongoing construction of the Somalia Drive, the Japanese Food Aid and the financing of major projects in the country, among others.
Minister Ngafuan urged Liberian and Japanese business executives to identify areas of common interests and activities within the framework of business and investment promotions.
“Lastly,’ he asserted, “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.”
The Senior Vice President of Mitsubishi Corporation Mr. Kaneki, lauded both governments for what he called a remarkable decision that brought together the private sector from each country.
While encouraging his colleagues at the occasion to explore new investment opportunities in Liberia, Mr. Kaneki noted 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.”
He also spoke profoundly of Liberia’s maritime program, noting that it has hundreds of ships flying the Liberian flag which covers about 12.5% of total operating ships in the world.