ERISA TAKEDA WRITES – Japan and Saudi Arabia each want a better economy. To get there, they’ve just doubled down on closer bilateral relations and deeper cultural ties.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met in Tokyo September 1 to sign a handful of agreements that together better align their economic interests.

Saudi Arabia, hoping to be less oil dependent, seeks help from Japan to advance Vision 2030, an economic growth strategy meant to increase the private sector’s share of GDP from 40% to 65%. In exchange, the Prince announced that his country will make an investment-friendly environment for Japan and appealed specifically for investments in healthcare, alternative energy, and technology.

bin Salman is well-placed for such diplomacy. He is both the defense minister and chairman of Saudi Arabia’s Council for Economic and Development Affairs. A fan of Japanese animation, he also said the pact provides an “Arab gate for Japanese culture.” The memorandums of understanding (MoUs) include cultural exchanges, such as translations of classics and significant books and reciprocal visits by artists.

Each country is ultimately in it for their own economic growth and security. But the fact that nations as homogeneous as Japan and Saudi Arabia are opening themselves to the other’s culture can’t be a bad thing — for themselves or the world at large.

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