Please introduce yourself.
My name is Allan Edwards. I’m the Canadian consul for Canada. I’m based out of Nagoya. In my office we look after the Tokai and the Kansai regions as well as Shikoku in cooperation with the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.
I’ve been in the Trade Commissioner Service for seventeen years. I’ve lived in, I’ve been posted in Tokyo, in the United States; I’ve been posted in Nagoya, as well as in Osaka. And I have to say that I truly, truly valued my time in Osaka. I found the time in Osaka to be remarkable, mainly because the people have welcomed me so warmly here. But there’s also something about being so close to the mountains and being in a place where I can have all those wonderful advantages of living in a big city while at the same time being able to get out into nature, to go up and fish in a river, and go walk around in the mountains. That’s what I remember so fondly.
What is your impression of Osaka and Kansai?
And so my relationship with the Kansai has been extremely warm and deep, I love the Kansai, I love Osaka. It’s a place that grew on me very, very quickly. I think the thing that attracts me the most about the Kansai has always been the people. The people in the Kansai are very much different than people in other parts of Japan, in that they tend to be very direct, they tend to be very genuine, they tend to expect directness.
And they expect people to be straightforward and honest. And I find that very, very refreshing. I’m not suggesting that people in other parts of the country aren’t honest, but I’m saying that it’s a noticeable difference when you’re here. I was welcomed very warmly to Osaka, as was my family, and so my experience here is something that I always treasure very much.
How about doing business in Osaka?
I have to tell you that when I—I have done business in many places in the world, and what I find remarkable about Osaka is how ‘down to business’ people get, and this is a place where—It’s Japan, relationships are extremely important, there’s still niceties that need to be accepted. However, in Osaka, my sense of it has always been that people are willing to say ‘no’, they’re willing to say ‘yes’, very quickly. They’re willing to analyze a deal, look at the deal and say to you, “This works for me. This doesn’t work for me. How can we fix that? Because what I want to do is find a solution and go.” It’s not that frustrating story that you sometimes hear – I’m not sure that it’s always true – but you sometimes hear about never getting an answer. That’s not the way it is in Osaka. This is a place where business is very straightforward and it’s very refreshing.
We have a very good relationship with the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry. We’ve done a number of events together, such as welcoming the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance who came in and we were able to put together a program, the Canadian Consulate working in conjunction with the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry. We’ve also worked closely on many speaking events where we’ve been able to bring in, for example, the former Minister of International Trade and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, the honorable David Emerson. That was in cooperation with the Kansai Canada Business Association and the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
How about the business exchange activities between Osaka/Kansai and Canada?
Well in the Kansai region you have approximately 2,500 Canadians, and they have a number of different organizations that they are members. You’ve got the Kansai Canada Association, you have the Canada Japan Society of the Kansai, you have the Japan Canada Kai, and finally you have a business association called the Kansai Canada Business Association. The activities are broad-ranging, and what I think is really interesting is that of these organizations, they all sort of cover off a little bit of a different aspect of the relationship. Generally speaking, the business activities – seminars, business promotion activities, and support of the activities of the Canadian consulate – tend to come from the Japan Canada Kai and the Kansai Canada Business Association.
We also share as much intelligence as we can together to be able to connect Canadian companies with Kansai-based companies, particularly Osaka-based companies. And that’s actually perhaps the most important connection that we have, is the way that we connect on a business-to-business basis.
Obviously, Japan and the Kansai is a center for some pretty impressive technologies, particularly in fuel cells, environmental technologies, pharmaceuticals, and consumer products. Those are the kinds of technologies that many Canadian companies would like to feed into, and many Canadian companies could benefit from by utilizing, so I’m trying to make sure that that relationship stays strong, and hopefully it’s a little stronger since the time that I’ve been here.
Message to foreign companies
Well, inevitably, the world is, business-wise, becoming smaller. Global value chains are becoming more robust, and there are hubs for all of these global value chains. If a company is trying to grow—a company from Canada, for example, wants to grow and wants to engage in those global value chains, you can’t help but look at Japan. You have to look at Japan because so many of those value chains, the ones that you would know – Toyota, Panasonic, NTN, Kubota – these are value chains that are centered in Japan, and in the case of Panasonic and Kubota, they’re centered in Osaka. And so, if you want to be able to grow your business, to become more international, you need to start thinking about coming to Japan. You need to start thinking about looking for partners, particularly in Asia, which is a high-growth market. Japan has a very deep connection with China, a very deep, robust, and long-lasting relationship with China. And actually, if you were to look at Japan as a whole and start looking at some of the regions, probably the most robust relationship with China is based in the Kansai. So I would say that if you’re trying to grow your business, you’re trying to engage in these value chains that are going to bring new technologies to the people of the world, that are going to bring new solutions for problems that we’re all trying to fix, you should be looking to partner with the companies in Osaka, with the companies in Japan, and with the companies in Asia.