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Canada-Japan relations

Bilateral relations

Canada-Japan relations are underpinned by political, economic and cultural ties, which are bolstered by common values and shared interests. Canada and Japan have a long history of diplomatic relations dating back to 1928 when Japan opened a diplomatic mission in Ottawa. Canada inaugurated its diplomatic mission to Japan in Tokyo on May 21, 1929, formalizing our full bilateral diplomatic relations.

Canada and Japan work together to promote the rules-based international order and are committed to deepening the bilateral partnership. In May 2021, the Foreign Ministers of Canada and Japan agreed on six shared priorities contributing to a free and open Indo-Pacific region. These include the rule of law; peacekeeping operations, peacebuilding, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; energy security; health security and responding to COVID-19; free trade promotion and trade agreement implementation; and the environment and climate change.

Canada and Japan are strong allies in supporting the rules-based multilateral system. Both countries are key partners in ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) reform efforts, including through the Ottawa Group. Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada and Japan have worked closely in multilateral forums, including the G7 and G20, in order to coordinate responses to the pandemic.

Regular exchanges between Canadian and Japanese parliamentarians are another important pillar of the Canada-Japan relationship. The Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group and its Japanese counterpart, the Japan-Canada Diet Friendship League, have held regular consultations since 1989.

Canada and Japan enjoy rich cultural and people-to-people linkages. According to the 2016 Census, there are over 120,000 people of Japanese origin residing in Canada. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 600,000 Japanese and Canadians travelled annually to each other’s country. Japanese manga and anime have many fans in Canada, and Canadian musicians of all genres have an active following in Japan. There are 25 friendship associations, 71 sister city/sister province relationships, and one cooperation agreement between Japanese and Canadian communities.

Academic relations

Canada is committed to participation in international study and research partnerships that build understanding among peoples, develop global citizens and leaders, and contribute to the development of nations.

Canada remains a popular destination for Japanese students interested in studying abroad at all levels. Japan has regularly been the second largest source country for international language students in Canada.  In addition, at any one time, some 500 Canadians participate in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme, teaching English in schools across Japan or working with local governments. Canadians are long-standing supporters of this program, with approximately 10,000 alumni. International Experience Canada (Working Holiday) programs are also very popular, allowing thousands of Japanese and Canadians to enjoy short-term travel and work opportunities in each other’s country.

The International Scholarships Program (ISP) of Global Affairs Canada funds, manages and promotes international scholarship opportunities for Canadian and international students and researchers. Several programs are available to Japanese students and postdoctoral researchers wishing to pursue studies in Canada.

See Studying abroad for more information.

Trade relations

Trade and economic relations between Canada and Japan have been steadily expanding. With a gross domestic product of $6.2 trillion in 2021, Japan is the world’s third-largest national economy, one of Canada’s most important economic and commercial partners and Canada’s largest source of bilateral foreign direct investment (FDI) in Asia. FDI stock from Japan into Canada was valued at $46 billion in 2021, with more than 600 Japanese subsidiaries and affiliate companies operating in Canada and employing tens of thousands of Canadians. In January 2022, Canada’s Minister of International Trade committed to Canada’s participation in Expo Osaka 2025.

Canadian presence in Japan is significant and diverse with over 100 companies that have a permanent Japanese presence, primarily in the automotive, information and communications technologies, financial services, and forestry sectors. The stock of Canadian direct investment in Japan in 2021 stood at $7.7 billion. Japan is also Canada’s fourth-largest partner in two-way merchandise trade (second in Asia after China).

Canada’s exports of merchandise to Japan totalled $14.5 billion in 2021, while imports from Japan were $15.5 billion. Mineral ores, mineral fuels and oils (mostly coal and natural gas), oilseeds (canola), meat (mostly pork), and wood (softwood lumber) were Canada’s largest exports to Japan, while autos, auto parts, industrial machinery, electrical machinery and equipment, and scientific and precision instruments (mainly for medical use) were Canada’s largest imports from Japan in 2021.

Canada and Japan collaborate closely in the implementation and expansion of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The CPTPP eliminates or reduces tariffs on most key Canadian exports to Japan, including for agriculture and agri-food, seafood, forestry, and metals and mineral products. The CPTPP is a demonstration of Canada and Japan’s shared commitment to furthering the principles of an effective, open, inclusive, and rules-based trading system.

Canada-Japan Joint Economic Committee

This Joint Economic Committee (JEC) was established in 1976 and is Canada and Japan’s highest-level regular economic dialogue, held at the deputy-minister level. In 2016, the Prime Ministers of Canada and Japan agreed to revitalize the JEC as the primary vehicle to oversee bilateral economic ties. They agreed on five ‘Priority Areas of Cooperation’ (PACs): energy; infrastructure; tourism and youth exchange; science and technology; and the business environment and investment promotion.

With the aim to further expand bilateral cooperation and trade, new priority areas have been added from time to time. At the JEC meeting in 2020, “innovation” was included under the science and technology PAC, and in 2021 “agriculture” was added as a new sixth PAC.

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Defence and security cooperation

Canada and Japan have long shared strong political ties, and in recent years these relations have spread into new areas and become more substantive. One important area of growth is peace and security cooperation. The 2010 Canada-Japan Joint Declaration on Political, Peace and Security Cooperation served as the basis for deepening the partnership between Canada and Japan on regional and global security issues. The declaration’s centrepiece was the creation of the Political, Peace and Security Subcabinet “2+2” Dialogue, which commits Canada and Japan to undertake regular bilateral meetings between deputy minister-level officials responsible for foreign affairs and defence. In July 2019, the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement entered into force, facilitating cooperation between Canadian and Japanese defence forces. The Canadian Armed Forces regularly conduct joint and multilateral exercises with Japan and other partners.

The Canada-Japan Symposium on Peace and Security Cooperation brings together academics and policy-makers from both countries to discuss important regional security and bilateral cooperation topics. The first Symposium was held in Vancouver, Canada in 1998.

Canada and Japan work closely together to support and enhance regional security. Japan participated in the Vancouver Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula, co-hosted by Canada and the United States, in January, 2018. Since then, Canada has been a committed partner alongside Japan, in a multilateral initiative supporting the implementation of United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea. This has included activities under Operation NEON, involving multiple Canadian deployments to Japan of Royal Canadian Air Force maritime surveillance aircraft, as well as several Royal Canadian Navy vessels.

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