Image of panelists on a zoom webinar.
Government & politics, East Asia, Public policy, Foreign policy, Centre for the Study of Global Japan

Event Report: Canada-Japan Relations: A Historic Turning Point?

On March 27th from 7:00pm-8:30pm (EST)/ March 28th 8:00am-9:30am (JST) an exciting panel of experts came together in an event to discuss the historical relationship between the countries of Canada and Japan, and if the contemporary serves as a turning point for diplomatic ties. This event marks the 5th anniversary of the establishment for the Centre for the Study of Global Japan and was graciously co-sponsored by the Consulate General of Japan in Toronto.

Professor Phillip Lipscy, Director of the Centre, began the event by welcoming panel attendees and making a few remarks about what the Centre has managed to accomplish academically in only a few years. Opening remarks were then continued by Consul General Takuya Sasayama who reflected on a recent piece he authored in the Globe & Mail and how the importance of Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy will only continue to rise.

The event was moderated by Louis Pauly, the J. Stefan Dupré Distinguished Professor of Political Economy and affiliated faculty of the Centre for the Study of Global Japan.

The first speaker was Yuichi Hosoya, Professor of International Politics at Keio University located in Tokyo, Japan. Hosoya began by discussing how the significant changes present in Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy and the shifting towards a focus on Japan will inevitably bring the two nations together and reinforce support for the rules-based international order. Hosaya continued by pointing out that there are three important factors that are notably present in both countries’ strategies towards the Indo-Pacific region: inclusiveness, connectivity, and economic prosperity. Going on to analyze recent changes in Japan’s national security policies Hosaya stated that Japan will likely have a greater reliance on partners such as Canada and the United States as each nation pursues ‘decoupling’ policies that shift away from authoritarian regimes such as China.

The next speaker was Professor Rie Kijima, Director of the Initiative for Education Policy and Innovation that is situated in the Centre for the Study of Global Japan. Kijima took an educational lens to her presentation by noting that over 60% of international students that come to study in Canada originate from the Indo-Pacific region, highlighting that the importance of this landscape cannot be understated while examining the relations between Canada and Japan. Kijima went on to comment about Prime Minister Kishida’s “New Form of Capitalism”, a policy package that stresses Japanese innovation through objectives such as the ‘Global Startup Campus Initiative’ that promotes the establishment of relations amongst top companies and universities around the globe. Evidence of this can be seen by the increasing presence of Japan in the G7/U7+ Alliance, which recently saw University of Toronto president Meric Gertler travel to Keio University in Japan to meet with Kishida. Due to the similar interests of both Canada and Japan, Kijima concluded by stating the relationship will grow to be stronger especially amongst educational and economic fields.

The final speaker was David Welch, University Research Chair and Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo. Focusing his comments on the security cooperation between Canada and Japan, Welch began by stating the two are ‘natural partners’ and that recent changes in the international order confirm that a strategic turning point is indeed occurring. Common values, interests, and partners position the two nations to experience institutional overlap in the avenues in which global business is conducted, allowing the countries to develop strong formal and informal ties over the past few decades. Welch argued that there still remains unrealized potential for collaboration that can build upon commitments made in 2018 that saw the two countries enter into an acquisition and cross servicing agreement that made it possible for the Canadian and Japanese armed forces to collaborate and share information, supplies, and military strategies.

Following the panel discussion, there was a lively question and answer period with viewers from around the globe. Questions the panelists answered involved ideas surrounding Canada’s capacity for diplomatic influence on the Indo-Pacific region, how the two nations can leverage their shared membership in institutions such as the G7, and the role of China in attempting to restructure the liberal international order.

We would like to thank the panel for their brilliant analysis, as well as the virtual audience that was in attendance for an engaged Q&A session. The recording of the panel can be viewed here