East Asia
East Asia has positioned itself as one of the most influential geopolitical areas. It has an essential role to play in the future of commercial and security relations. Spain has made relations with East Asia one of its foreign policy priorities. That has translated into rapprochement with countries like China. Japan and South Korea: political contact is customary, economic relations have multiplied and civil society links are growing

Relations with China

Spain has maintained diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China since 1973. Today, bilateral relations are framed in the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership contained in the Joint Declaration signed on the occasion of President Ju Jintao's visit to Madrid in 2005, and renewed in 2009. On the basis of this agreement, regular consultation mechanisms have been established which have allowed for greater density of bilateral relations.

Moreover, high level contacts have followed a growing trend in recent years. The three visits of President Mariano Rajoy to China in 2014, 2015 and 2017 were particular highlights. The year 2018, which marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Spain and China, represents a landmark in bilateral relations marked by continued high level exchanges.

Over recent years, political contact have been accompanied by an effort to promote the image and presence of Spain in China, through the Chambers of Commerce and the extension of the network of General consulates, Economic and Commercial Offices, Tourism Offices and the Instituto Cervantes. The Spain-China Council Foundation, created in 2004, also contributes to this as a public diplomatic instrument.

The development of increasingly closer political relations has gone hand in hand with the intensification of economic relations. Spain is one of the China's biggest commercial partners in the EU and China has become an important supplier and investor in Spain. Still in the economic sphere and at multilateral level, it is necessary to remember that Spain is one of the founding partners of the Asian Development Bank, established by China and with its headquarters in Beijing. Spain also participated, represented at the highest level by the President of the Government, in the 1st Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the flagship of Chinese economic diplomacy today.

In an increasingly globalised world, Spanish and Chinese companies have also grown closer. China is now home to around 6,000 Spaniards while, according to the Spanish National Statistics Institute (INE), as of 1 January 2017, there were around 177,500 Chines nationals living legally in Spain (the fifth largest foreign community is Spain based on numbers). The Chinese community in Spain has continued to grow for several years, including during the years of the economic crisis.

Spain and China have long enjoyed contact historically, dating back to the 16th century. 2008 marked the 400th anniversary of the death of the priest and sinologist Diego de Pantoja, who spend many years living in China and who provided his contemporaries with vast knowledge of China.

Relations with Japan

Spain and Japan have maintained diplomatic relations since 1868, while the earliest contacts date back to evangelism of Saint Francis Xavier (1549) and the Spanish and Portuguese missionaries who travelled to the country in the second half of the 16th century and the early 17th century. At present, relations between both countries are excellent in all spheres and were boosted in 2013 with the launch of the Spanish-Japanese Association for Peace, Growth and Innovation.

In effect, Spain and Japan develop their relations in a structured manner through this Association, which is extended fundamentally across four areas of action: the strengthening of political and security relations; fostering economic and commercial relations; development of cooperation in the areas of science and technology; and the fostering of civil society links. This document is expected to be renewed in 2018, taking the relationship to another strategic level in all areas.

In 2018, Spain and Japan celebrate the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations with the Friendship, Commerce and Navigation Treaty of 12 November 1868. To mark this occasion, there will be an extensive programme of high-level meetings and economic, cultural and civil society activities with numerous exhibitions, festivals, artistic performance and seminars.

These commemorations come in light of the new cycle initiated by the State Visit to Japan by Their Majesties the King and Queen in April 2017, which once again demonstrated the high degree of harmony between the two countries and the increasing links in the economic and commercial, science and technology and civil-society spheres.

In the political and security sphere, Spain and Japan maintain annual high level discussions and frequent high level visits in both directions. In the economic and commercial sphere, it must be noted that Japan is currently Spain's second largest trading partner in Asia and Spain is Japan's sixth largest supplier of goods in the EU. The two countries maintain strong investment relations and a flow of tourism between the countries, having signed a memorandum of understanding in 2017 for cooperation between the respective national tourism authorities. Economic relations are expected to take a significant step forward in all areas with the signing, in July 2018, of the Economic Partnership Agreement and the Strategic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Japan.

Among the many civil society links, we should mention the Japan-Spain Business Cooperation Committee and the Spain-Japan Council Foundation, which organises regular meetings to look at the main issues in terms of relation between the two countries. The 19th edition was held in October 2017, focussing on globalisation and the fourth industrial revolution.  

Relations with the Republic of Korea (South Korea)

Spain and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) established diplomatic relations in March 1950. Since then, bilateral relations have always been very cordial, boosted significantly in 2007 after the signing of a Joint Declaration and a Memorandum of Understanding. Contacts between the two countries date back to the end of 16th century, with the visit of the Spanish Jesuit priest Gregorio de Céspedes and other missionaries of the order, who described the Korean people in their writings (Luis de Guzmán, 1601).

Recent years have seen a series of high-level visits and consultation in diverse political and economic areas. Spain appreciates the Republic of Korea's role in global affairs, in line with its economic and political weight in the world. Our countries share a commitment to democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the market economy and we share the same positions in many areas of the international agenda.

In the economic and commercial sphere, in 2013 Spain prepared the Comprehensive Market Development Plan for Korea, which contains a range of measures to support Spanish trade and investment in the country, to foster investment in both directions and to promote joint operations in third markets. Since the Free Trade Agreement with the EU in 2010, commercial trade has grown. One of the most promising areas is that of tourism, with strong growth of tourism from South Korea to our country since 2012, which will only grow further as a result of better airline connections.

Cultural relations have intensified in recent years with initiatives like Spain's participation in the Expo 2012 in Yeosu. 2011 saw the opening of an Aula Cervantes in South Korea and a Korean Cultural Institute in Spain. Casa Asia and Korea Foundation organise the annual Spain-Korea Platform as a forum for dialogue between the two civil societies. The 7th such Platform, held in Santiago de Compostela in July 2018, will be dedicated to fostering strategic relations, the green economy and the development of tourism and education.



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