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Opinion

Japan must open its borders before criticizing US closures

Tokyo wants to make itself more attractive to business yet impedes permanent residents

| Japan
Japan Business Federation Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi speaks at a press conference in Tokyo on June 24. (Photo by Hisao Kodachi)

From Marcus Schuermann, delegate of the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan.

Looking at the article of June 25, "Japan business lobby expresses concern over U.S. work visa halt," distributed by Kyodo News and the statement made by the chairman of the Japan Business Federation, or Keidanren, Hiroaki Nakanishi, it is interesting to see that Japanese companies regard the U.S. move to stop issuing certain work visas as a "serious problem to business operation."

It might not be reasonable for Japan to have this issue both ways, complaining about the U.S. policy while imposing even stronger restrictions towards Europe and Germany. For months, the German business as well as the European business community have lobbied for Japan to lift its largely one-sided entry ban.

This harms bilateral business relations significantly, in particular if those with long-term residency permits cannot even make essential business trips. Japan sees itself as a preferred partner of German companies, however mutual trust and appreciation are key elements of such a partnership.

An additional thought: in light of Hong Kong losing credibility among highly skilled financial workers, the Japanese government is inviting foreign talent to Japan. To strengthen Tokyo as a global financial center, a 22-page government paper calls among other things for easing visa restrictions and increasing the number of international schools.

How can the government win the trust of the foreign business community if at the same time it denies even permanent residents entry to Japan?

The valued partnership between Germany and Japan should be the base for a balanced and reciprocal approach to this problem in order to preserve excellent business relations. It is very much up to our Japanese partners to help solve this unfortunate situation.

There are best practices in neighboring countries facing similar challenges and we are more than glad to cooperate and work out solutions. The way we interact during the current crisis is also important for resuming and intensifying our relations in post-coronavirus times.

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