"JAPAN WILL TEACH YOU BUSINESS"-SAYS MISTER ASAHI
Interview with Mr. Hideki Asahi, Consul General of Japan in
Mr. Asahi, our media says that Primorye is kind of separated
from the rest of Russia by its distance, huge railroad
tariffs, ticket prices and so on. In this connection analysts
suppose that Primorye should be more oriented to the economy
of Pacific Rim. What do you think of this idea in general and
what could be the ways of such integration? Is Primary going
to be just a supplier of raw materials and a dump for other
countries or it might become an industrial and tourist centre?
First of all I'll tell you my personal opinion. I think
Primary may not rely on Moscow government in this question.
At least you have a right to be initiative in establishing
economical connections. Although, I doubt that Primary is
able to merge with the countries of Pacific Rim. The
centralisation that you have now doesn't leave such
opportunity. Only if Russia gets accepted in Organisation of Asian-Pacific Economical Co-operation,
Primorye may play its part in region's affairs.
You mean Moscow bothers this process?
Even if the government does not do it on purpose, they
practically stop any activity, cutting all local connections.
As for Japan, we basically need raw materials. It is known that
we import wood, oil, coal, and non-ferrous metal. Our major
need is wood, and we would like to import it on a long term
basis. If we manage to conclude an appropriate agreement it
will be a step forward in relations between our countries. The
fourth stage of Siberia Wood Resources Management Project is
being executed these days, but it tends to stop. Irrespective
of this we could offer you hi-tech products, various
machinery, and know-how. Tourism is very perspective field,
too. Hopefully, next year will bring some results here. I know
you got reserved areas of taiga (zapovednik-that's the Russian
word). That is very interesting for the foreigners.
Mister Consul, what would you say about such statement:
"Japan will become a country #1 next century, America will be
its assembly shop, Europe-a store, and Russia may pretend to
be a ski instructor."
I can not agree with such statement. I do think the following
century will be "Century of Asia" Japan, China, other
countries of Pacific Rim will play the first fiddle in
economics. However, I suppose Russia, US, and Europe won't
get stuck. They will continue their development and mutual
Press reports that Japan is ready to fund a famous "Tumangan"
project. What is Japanese concern in this project?
Well, Japan imports lots of goods particularly raw materials
from China, basically its Northeast. At this point all cargo
goes down south China by railroad, transfers to ships in the
Yellow Sea ports, and goes around Korea to Kobe, and Yokohama.
As you may see this is a long and costly way, chipping charges
are too high. If free economic area with a sea port "Tumangan"
works out, we could do all shipping operations through it. It
will be a lot faster and cheaper. All this concerns the goods
from Europe that go through Siberia. Starting with Irkutsk we
could make a shortcut through the Chinese territory.
Mister Consul, let's talk about one more problem. The
negotiations of fishery in the area of South Kuril Islands
between Russian and Japanese representatives has begun a
couple of month ago in Moscow. Could you tell us about the
results of those talks; are they continuing or stopped, are
there any changes in fishery policy in the mentioned region?
Unfortunately I don't have detailed information on this
issue. According to reports from Tokyo, the negotiations are
going on. The first round in March did not cause any results.
The Japanese party has stated its opinion and listened the
proposals of the Russian side. Of course it is too early to
talk about concrete results. The point is that the parties are
aware of each other's positions, and they are busy with
working out mutual suggestions. The situation around Northern
Japanese Territories remains the same.
What is the present level of business co-operation between
Japanese companies and Primorye? Could you give examples of
joint investments in business?
First of all we can talk about private businesses only, and
there are some examples:
1. Co-operation with FESCO. I mean Versailles restaurant.
2. ACFES car shop "Summit Motors" where TOYOTA automobiles are sold.
3. Joint-venture "Vostok-TELECOM".
That's about it. The problem is that Japanese businessmen are
afraid of your huge taxes, constantly changing laws, high
crime rate. Russia is a "risk zone" for business.
How about the unsolved problem of "Northern Territories"?
Our point of view is following: we need to develop political,
economic, cultural co-operation between citizens, companies,
cities and regions. Russia has acknowledged the existence of
this problem and has promised to solve it fairly. That is
enough for now. We hope this problem will be resolved by
negotiations and mutual agreement, its current status should
not disturb business activity.
Mister Asahi, what can you say about the project, that is
being worked out together with DVGU (local state university)-I
mean recovery of one of the university buildings and
establishment of a Japan Culture Center. Or technical
center-is that correct?
Yes, Japanese government is going to create such institution
called simply "Japan Center". Vladivostok will be the third
Russian city where the center is going to get opened. Two of
those are in Moscow in Plekhanov University MGU (Moscow State
University); another one is in Khabarovsk. The Vladivostok
center intend to open it by November'95.
Yes, that's why we got to hurry. The maintenance of Biology
Department building has already started. We'll get all
necessary materials in the beginning of June. The whole project
is funded by the Japanese side; the maintenance is delegated to the
large Japanese construction company "Konoike", although the workers will
be hired over here in Vladivostok.
We intend to manage "Japan-center" for three years, and later it will become
property of DVGU. We plan to organise teaching in the following fields: privatisation
banking systems, trade and investments, labor efficiency increase, and
the Japanese language. Besides that we'll continue a program of small and middle
business development, which now covers four Vladivostok colleges. Under this
program our specialists will teach Management to Russian businessmen.
Well, that's enough about it. Would you tell us about your consulate work. Are you satisfied with
living conditions in Vladivostok? What about power and hot water shut down?
The consulate has 11 Japanese and 8 Russian employees. We cover the entire
Primorye, issue visas, keep track of political, economic, and social situation
in this region. Our major goal is maintaining friendly relations with
the Russians and protection of Japanese citizens and their property in Russia.
We are definitely displeased with the building of the consulate. (it is
temporary located in the round floor on Menzhinskiy street -I.E.) We are trying
to fins another location, but it seems to be a complicated task. There is a
building that was intended for our consulate, but it's occupied by a oncology
stationery. I tried to arrange this question with the local authorities. In
exchange for that they asked us to build a hospital for 200 patients; we just
don't have money for that.
As for living conditions, electricity shut offs are seldom in
our office, however my associates suffer from it a lot. Using this occasion
I'd like to ask city administration for some privileges as it's customary
for diplomats, on mutual basis, of course.
Mister consul, tell us about yourself a little bit.
I've graduated from University of Foreign Languages in Kobe, majoring in
Russian studies, although I've worked for Ministry of Foreign Affairs in French-
speaking countries: Belgium, France, Ivory Coast. Later - English-speaking
countries: USA, Malaysia. General Consulate in Vladivostok got opened on
November 11, 1993. I arrived over here by November 25. Since that time I've
been living here, leaving for Japan for 3 times only: vacation, conference of
governors, and treatment. I live in the suburb (Sanatornaya station), my wife is
with me, too. We got no kids.
Well, and what are you doing in your spare time?
I don't have any hobbies-too much work to do. The only one is, maybe, going
to restaurants. I've been in all Vladivostok restaurants. (Mister Asahi has tactfully
evaded a question: which is the best one?)
Mister Asahi, as far as I know you are leaving our city in the beginning of July.
Yes, I'm going to Japan on vacations and get some medical treatment. I'm
going to be absent for a month and a half.
Have a nice vacation. See you in mid June.