Your excellency, what do you consider as the main strengths of the Luxembourg economy?
Tadahiro Matsubara: I think the most distinguished strength is the future-oriented attitude and the strategic focus on areas such as space and fintech. Luxembourg used to be a steel giant and was successfully transformed into a thriving financial sector hub. My impression is that they are still constantly asking themselves what the next big thing will be. The country has successfully built a very agile ecosystem with quick decision making and implementation of new initiatives, which I consider as a significant strength. Its political stability is also very important.
Luxembourg has successfully built a very agile ecosystem with quick decision making and implementation of new initiatives.
Japan has a vast domestic market and strong technological capabilities, but I think we have much to learn from Luxembourg’s ability to attract talent from all over the world due to its business-friendly environment. The country also offers good access to the whole of Europe. I believe that there is much room for Japanese players to expand through Luxembourg and take advantage of this favourable environment for their business in Europe.
What sector do you consider as particularly interesting for cooperation between Japan and Luxembourg?
When the prime ministers of Japan and Luxembourg met in October last year, they affirmed their commitment to strengthening our economic collaboration with a particular focus on three areas: space, finance and pharmaceutical. The financial sector is significant in Luxembourg, and half of the 41 Japanese companies that are currently active here are working in the financial field. I recently read an interview with the Luxembourg Minister of Finance, Yuriko Backes, who spoke about the importance of mobilising private funds for financing the energy transition that will require huge investments in the near future. For me, it is crucial that Japanese players are part of this move.
Japanese lunar exploration company ispace has become a well-known player in the Luxembourg space ecosystem. The company was recently part of a moon landing tentative, and even if the effort was not conclusive this time, they gained a lot of new knowledge. The next attempt is scheduled for 2024, and the Luxembourg office will make an essential contribution.
What feedback do you receive from Japanese companies doing business in and from Luxembourg?
So far, I have only received good feedback: the companies that I speak to enjoy expanding their activity in Luxembourg because of the very good business environment here that offers easy access to European partners as well as to decision makers. Of course, all companies also experience some difficulties, but this encourages them to improve their management and come up with new solutions.
The companies that I speak to enjoy expanding their activity in Luxembourg because of the very good business environment here.
My compatriots speak very well of how Luxembourg handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Most Japanese companies required their overseas subsidiaries to regularly submit information about the situation in their host countries – not always an easy task, but Luxembourg is constantly commended for the timely and transparent provision of accurate information.
What is your own experience of integrating the Luxembourg ecosystem?
Due to the nature of my job as an ambassador, I’m fortunate enough to have many opportunities to meet decision makers at various events, and I have always found them open and friendly. Government ministers are very active in the field of business and well informed about individual projects. When paying a courtesy visit, I was surprised when the minister that I had come to see directly asked me a question about a specific issue regarding a Japanese company. Thanks to the direct communication between us, the issue was resolved accordingly in a timely manner.
The Luxembourg ecosystem is a small world where everybody knows everybody, which makes it very efficient – although one needs to be aware that bad news also travels fast! My impression is that one of the main assets is the sharing of information, both horizontally and vertically, which contributes to efficient support and the swift resolution of problems. There is a culture of transparency, and we are well informed about what is going on.
What aspects do you appreciate most about life in Luxembourg?
To tell the truth, I knew next to nothing about the country before coming here, so I studied hard before taking up this position. I was surprised to discover that every single Luxembourger has a great command of several languages – this is truly amazing. Luxembourg has also been very successful in embracing its diversity and its multilingual and international society. Japan has a lot to learn from the Grand Duchy in this regard.
I enjoy the sophisticated culture here: I find something new every day and am very excited to see what is next. A few weeks ago, I participated in the UNESCO heritage-classed hopping procession in Echternach that take place every year on Whit Tuesday. This was a valuable experience for me, and I understand how important it is to preserve this tradition that has been going on for centuries.
Luxembourg has been very successful in embracing its diversity and its multilingual and international society.
People in Luxembourg are generous, well educated and well mannered. Streets and public facilities are very clean, and drivers are very friendly to pedestrians – they are always stopping. I admit that I miss some food from home, but I have experienced high standards and good services in restaurants here. The only problem is that the food portions are also very generous, so you have to pay attention to how much you eat!
What collaboration opportunities do you see for the coming years?
Japan and Luxembourg have a long and good relationship based on a solid foundation that I would like to enhance further. Japan will host the 2025 World Expo in Osaka, and we would like to organise a variety of activities in cooperation with Luxinnovation, the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce and the Luxembourg Trade and Investment Office (LTIO) in Tokyo. This would be an excellent opportunity to further reinforce our mutual relationships.