TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan and Tunisia agreed Wednesday to cooperate in preparing the North African country's hosting of a Tokyo-led international conference on African development in 2022, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said.
"Japan and Tunisia agreed to improve (business) environments in terms of investment and tax" to strengthen the bilateral relationship, Motegi said during a press availability with Ali Nafti, Tunisia's secretary of state to the minister of foreign affairs, in Tunis.
Motegi, who is on the first stop of a four-nation African tour also involving Mozambique, South Africa and Mauritius through next Monday, met with Nafti in place of Tunisian Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi, who fell ill, according to a Japanese Foreign Ministry official.
Tunisia will host the eighth edition of the international event, known as the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, as the second African nation to do so after Kenya in 2016. It brings together government and business leaders from Africa and Japan as well as representatives from international organizations.
Japan launched the confab in 1993 but is feared to be falling behind in the race to tap into the fast-growing market in recent years, with China growing its influence with infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road initiative.
Ahead of his meetings with Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and Tunisian President Kais Saied, Motegi also told the press availability Japan will continue to provide health care and medical support to help Tunisia combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Motegi also said he shared with Nafti "the importance to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific," referring to a concept to promote the rule of law, freedom of navigation and free trade in the region stretching from Asia to Africa.
Tokyo has been promoting the concept amid Beijing's growing assertiveness in the East and South China seas.
Nafti said he also looks forward to deepening the bilateral relationship as Tunisia holds a rotating nonpermanent seat on the U.N. Security Council for the 2020-2021 term.