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Ukraine 2020

Ukraine 2020 - Advancing Ukraine’s Image in Japan

Japan is not a country that springs readily to mind when discussing Ukraine's foreign policy priorities.  For several reasons, most obviously historical and geographic, relations between Kyiv and the world's second largest economy have been understandably underdeveloped.  

However, with the Japanese showing an increasing interest in the countries of the Black Sea region - particularly in GUAM and its member countries - the Ukrainian Embassy in Tokyo  is working with tremendous commitment and creativity to turn this interest into a broader awareness and, ultimately, measurable interest.

Recently, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s (USUF) Vice-President Markian Bilynskyj traveled to Tokyo at the invitation of Ukraine's Ambassador, Mykola Kulinych, to look at the possibilities for generating Japanese interest and support for Ukraine’s economic development through USUF’s regional approach, the Baltic-Black-Caspian Seas Initiative (BBCSI).  Attention was focused specifically on the areas of tourism as a component of regional economic development and the potential for regional, community-based energy saving initiatives.

The principal meetings on tourism were with Mr. Kosuke Shibita, president of the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA), and high-level representatives of three large travel companies: Travel Sekai, Tairiku Travel, and Tumlare Corporation.  Each year, JATA organizes Japan's largest tourist trade show.  The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation hopes to attend this event as part of its Discover Ukraine Initiative.

Ukraine 2020 - Advancing Ukraine’s Image in Japan

Discussion with the travel companies focused on the potential for Black Sea region tourism as well as on customized visits to Ukraine. The persistent theme was that with Japan providing the highest per capita number of overseas tourists, the potential for tourism to become a significant instrument of economic growth both in Ukraine and the wider region was immense.  It was stressed that the current, very modest number of Japanese visitors to Ukraine was not caused so much by Japanese concerns over the quality of amenities and facilities they might encounter, but that the Japanese simply didn't know enough about Ukraine or the region to consider it seriously as a destination when they planned their vacations.

Japanese technical assistance programs to Ukraine are being reorganized.  The meeting with Mr. Adachi Hiroaki, Deputy Assistant director of Economic Development Division of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) focused on the possible role of non-government organizations in the identification and implementation of projects in the areas of economic development - again including tourism - and energy efficiency.  He was very supportive of the BBCSI's novel approach to working in these areas.  JICA operates on similar principles to those followed by assistance agencies from other countries and a large role for identifying priority areas is reserved for recipient countries.  Obviously, the scope of JICA's operations, as with similar agencies, will be determined by budgetary realities arising from the global financial and economic recession.

Ukraine 2020 - Advancing Ukraine’s Image in Japan

The meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Mr. Nobukatsu Kanehara focused on political developments in Ukraine and Ukraine's foreign relations.  Mr. Kanehara, who is Deputy Director General for European Affairs, has special responsibility for GUAM as an organization.  Mr. Kanehara, who had met USUF President Nadia McConnell at a previous Krynytsia Economic Forum in Poland, displayed a keen knowledge of Ukrainian political history and stressed the importance of civil society in contemporary Ukraine.  He acknowledged the complementary role the BBCSI can play to official level initiatives and asked to be kept informed of how the BBCSI develops so that it can become a genuine resource.

Ms. Chika Fujimoto of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation agreed that while her Foundation's work in Eastern Europe was winding down - the focus had previously been on Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic - Ukraine could become a focal point for projects in a redefined Eastern Europe.  Ms. Fujimoto expressed support for the creativity inherent in the BBCSI and encouraged the Initiative to consider addressing non-traditional security threats in the region with a view to working with the Foundation on these problems in a very targeted manner.

Informal discussions also took place with the ambassadors of Estonia, Latvia, and Romania.  They were informed that their colleagues in Washington had been briefed on the BBCSI and were very supportive.   All three were equally enthusiastic and offered to lend their support to Ambassador Kulinych in promoting the BBCSI where practical during meetings with relevant Japanese agencies and officials.

Mr. Bilynskyj's visit to Japan underscored the vital importance of a pro-active campaign to bring Ukraine to the world's attention.  With the world beginning to recover from its recent economic traumas, competition for investment resources is fiercer than ever.  One only has to see the number of countries - even well known ones - and regions aggressively advertising their comparative advantages on international news channels or in the print media to appreciate the point that passivity will not be rewarded.   The goal of Ukraine 2020 - Advancing Ukraine’s Image and Competitiveness –a strategic effort to improve Ukraine’s economic development and image world-wide, is extremely important for Ukraine’s international position at this time.

(Note:  The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and the Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy would like to thank Ambassador Mykola Kulinych and his staff - particularly Yuliia Ni, Deputy Head of Mission and Acting Head of Trade and Economic Mission of the Embassy of Ukraine in Japan - for organizing Mr. Bilynskyj's visit and for their genuine interest in and commitment to U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s initiatives.)


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