Japan and EU work on strategic partnership for COVID-19 pandemic

President von der Leyen, Council President Charles Michel and Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe, discussed the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic

On 26 May, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Council President Charles Michel and the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe held a virtual leaders’ meeting and have issued a joint press release. They addressed the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the importance of global solidarity, cooperation and effective multilateralism. The leaders discussed the need to draw lessons from the current situation in order to prevent future pandemics, and the steps to be taken in this regard.

On 4 May 2020, both parties created “the Global Coronavirus Response” which was intended to raise €7.5 billion. At the time of writing, the pledge has received €9.8 billion euros. These leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to global collaboration and sustained funding for developing and deploying effective antiviral medicines, diagnostics, treatments and vaccines in order to make them available to all at an affordable price.

John H. Breen, a political consultant writing for us, disparaged the current status of multilateral efforts against COVID-19:

“International efforts to financially support multilateral organisations and LMICs have so far been insufficient. Some financial support is being provided by the G20, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank through the suspension of debt repayments and emergency aid.

“However, these measures do not go far enough as they merely delay an oncoming debt crisis with half of LMICs already in debt distress. There are also concerns surrounding China’s lacklustre approach to these initiatives given it tops the creditor list across Africa.”

How are the EU and Japan working together?

Illustrating the commitment of the EU and Japan to accelerate cooperation on research on health, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel and the Minister of State of Japan for Science and Technology Policy, Naokazu Takemoto, signed in the margins of the video conference, a Letter of Intent on strengthening cooperation in science, technology and innovation. This includes collaboration between Japan’s Moonshot Research and Development Program and the EU’s Horizon Europe Programme.

What about the global economy?

Presidents von der Leyen and Michel and Prime Minister Abe stressed their determination to ensure a robust economic recovery and rebuild more sustainable, inclusive and resilient economies, in keeping with the Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. The leaders stressed the need to assist developing countries in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, for example through the “Team Europe” support package of over €20 billion.

The leaders also discussed the geopolitical consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and reiterated their commitment to upholding the rules-based international order and to strengthening practical cooperation. The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the EU-Japan strategic partnership, which has been strengthened by the EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement and the Economic Partnership Agreement.

Breen further commented:

“LMICs require urgent international support to prevent a humanitarian crisis. Yet on the back of rising hate and xenophobia, public anxiety and distrust towards governments, borders have closed and societies are locked down. National leaders are prioritising domestic interests as they scramble to strengthen their healthcare systems and support businesses and households. As a result, international trade is plummeting, the global economy has stalled and a scrum for medical resources ensues.”

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