Is speaking Japanese more tricky than making marmalade?

I have a mixture of curiosity and jealousy when it comes to the British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

I wonder how, as a very senior British politician, he finds the time to practice the Japanese language?

It’s an impressive achievement, especially as he’s married to a Chinese person and has a young family.

Marmalade lessons

Mr Hunt used to live in Japan and at one point had a job trying to import British marmalade – a business which ended in failure, apparently, but which he claims was a useful learning experience.

This week he was back in Tokyo and paid a call on a high school in Hibiya.

The BBC’s Tokyo Correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes went to the school with him said that Mr Hunt gave a speech in extremely fluent Japanese and then took questions from the children about Brexit.

“He certainly did a very good of charming them and I think the Japanese are very flattered that Britain has a foreign minister who speaks such good Japanese. He has a good public image here,” said Rupert.

Apology due

But Rupert also said that the Foreign Secretary may need to apologise for a letter which was sent to the Japanese government in February, in which the British urged the Japanese to get a move on with trade talks post-Brexit.

“Time is of the essence” was one of the phrases used.

However, as Lianna Brinded explains in an excellent piece on Yahoo Finance, Prime Minister May has tried to pass the Brexit deal through parliament three times, and each time it was massively rejected by politicians within her own party and opposition MPs.
The Yahoo report points out that Japan is the third largest economy in the world and is one of the UK’s biggest investors. Japanese companies employ 150,000 people in Britain, and trade between the two countries totalled £28bn in the past year, according to the government.
Bewildered
The Japanese are now “bewildered” by Brexit, according to the former chief executive of UK Trade and Investment.

Sir Andrew told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “The Japanese are really very disappointed about Brexit, probably of all the countries in the world, they are the ones which have reacted worst to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.”

Sir Andrew Cahn said that foreign secretary Hunt has a huge task on his hands, as Japanese firms use the UK as a gateway to the EU. This would be “significantly closed” if the UK left on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, he warned.
So, although I am jealous of Mr Hunt’s language skills and his VIP treatment in Tokyo, I am not the least bit jealous of him when it comes to the arduous task of justifying the Brexit to a key trade partner.

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