Yukio Edano became famous in Japan for his trademark blue jumpsuit and round-the-clock schedule as the government's spokesman after the Fukushima nuclear accident. Yesterday he was in Abu Dhabi on another critical mission.
Japan official upbeat on oil renewal
Japan, Abu Dhabi's biggest oil customer, is optimistic that its concessions will be renewed and possibly extended to new blocks after talks yesterday with top officials.
Yukio Edano, the Japanese trade minister, met Abdulla Nasser Al Suwaidi, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, as the 2018 expiration of its offshore concession draws closer.
"We received a very positive response from them," said Mr Edano, emerging from meetings at the Intercontinental hotel in Abu Dhabi. "Based on such a positive response, practical consideration I think will be implemented in a relatively easy manner."
The officials discussed commercial terms "requested by Japanese companies", he said, as well as a new opportunity in an unexplored onshore block. Some foreign investors have complained that the terms currently on offer in Abu Dhabi concessions - about US$1 (Dh3.67) profit for every barrel of oil produced - are too harsh to encourage new investment. Mr Edano declined to comment on whether the current terms would be acceptable if renewed without changes.
A Japanese consortium holds a 12 per cent stake in Adma-Opco, Abu Dhabi's largest offshore area that accounts for about half of the country's 2.8 million barrel-a-day output. Mr Edano said he hoped the UAE and Japan could also cooperate on renewables and energy-saving technology.
But chief in importance is the raw material that Japan was the first to import from Abu Dhabi more than a half-century ago, he said. "Regardless of the nuclear power accident, Abu Dhabi oil is and will continue to be important to Japan," he said.
"We would like to continue on such concessions."
Abu Dhabi has increased exports of natural gas to Japan by 840,000 tonnes in the wake of the Fukushima accident. Forty-three reactors remain shut down and fossil fuels have been used as a stopgap to keep power going in Japan's homes and industry.
Restarting the reactors depends on the will of the Japanese people, he said.
"We have to have a good consensus in Japan," said Mr Edano, who for many Japanese is the public face of the emergency response to the triple meltdown and radiation contamination at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Mr Edano entered the spotlight in March as the government's top spokesman for the emergency efforts to stem radiation leakage and shut down the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Then the chief cabinet secretary, he appeared every few hours on television to update the Japanese people clad in the blue emergency jumpsuit that came to symbolise the response to the March 11 catastrophe.