Under the neon lights of Tokyo, the City is forging closer relationships with Asia

Peter Estlin
People cross a zebra crossing in Tokyo's
Asia is already home to some of the fastest growing economies and is the greatest contributor to global growth (Source: Getty)

Next week will see me travel to one of the busiest cities on earth, home to nearly 40m people and more square footage of advertising and media than anywhere else in the world: Tokyo.

My visit is part of a 12-day trip to four Asian cities that will also take me to Seoul, Hong Kong, and Singapore. It is a visit focused on building links with some of the world’s most exciting, forward-looking metropolises.

While a question mark may continue to hang over the UK’s future relationship with Europe, there are at present no bigger long-term opportunities than those found in Asia. The world is pivoting east, and we cannot afford to be left behind.

The continent is already home to some of the fastest growing economies and is the greatest contributor to global growth. In fact, by 2025 Asia is forecast to account for nearly half the world’s GDP.

By that time, nearly 2.5bn people across the region will live in cities, accounting for almost 54 per cent of the world’s urban population, and two thirds of the global middle class, many of whom will be based in the four financial cities I’ll be visiting.

This seismic shift in the global economy presents huge opportunities for the UK to strengthen mutually beneficial ties across Asia, as demand for the services and expertise provided by City firms continues to grow.

Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, and Singapore are – of course – all important financial centres in their own right. We will continue to compete for business in some areas, but there are many others where collaboration will benefit all.

The City’s strength in established areas such as insurance, asset management, and infrastructure financing will remain important areas of partnership. And the Square Mile’s ability to innovate and tap into fast-growing markets will also play a crucial role as we strengthen links across Asia.

Back in the middle ages, we created guilds to help boost commerce and trade. Later, we invented the insurance industry following the Great Fire of London.

These days we are a world leader not just in traditional finance, but also in newer industries like fintech, green finance, and cyber security.

We have much to offer our Asian counterparts in these areas as demands from their citizens for financial and professional services evolve in line with their economic growth.

Collaboration is also vital if we are to tackle major international issues that cross borders such as sustainable development, climate change, and digitisation of the international economy.

Through my mayoral theme of “Shaping Tomorrow’s City Today”, I am working to do just this, building bridges with cities across the globe that enable us to fully leverage the opportunities of the digital era by delivering tangible exchanges of innovation, skills, and knowledge.

I see no better place to lay the foundations for such bridges than underneath Tokyo’s neon lights and across Asia more widely.

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