Despite shared interests and values, Spain is under-resourcing its relationship with Japan

All those interviewed agreed that the Spanish administration has historically had a very positive image of Japan. However, despite shared interests and values, and Japan’s economic importance, Spain does not devote enough resources to the region. The lack of a strategic vision, the scarcity of speakers of Japanese language, or concrete measures such as the creation of a General Directorate for Japan within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, were mentioned as examples of this lack of engagement.

Spanish economic actors consider Japan a land of opportunities for Spanish companies that is yet to be fully explored. Japan is perceived both as a very strong economic player and a solid partner, but ranks poorly (22nd) among Spain’s trade partners, and bilateral investments remain relatively low.

In the field of security and defence, Spanish officials welcome the possibility of a more active Japanese engagement in international military operations, provided the country respects UN conventions and international law. However, similarly to other European countries, Spain does not perceive the military rise of China as an imminent security threat and, as a consequence, the priorities and motives of Japanese defence policy are not always shared or understood by Spanish officials. This is reflected, for example, in the different views expressed by Spain and Japan concerning the reform of the United Nations Security Council, or in the absence of a Spanish defence attaché in Japan.

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The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. This commentary, like all publications of the European Council on Foreign Relations, represents only the views of its authors.