Peter van der Vliet is the ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Japan. Previously, he was director for multilateral affairs and human rights, and ambassador for the Sustainable Development Goals. He served at Dutch diplomatic postings in Geneva, New Delhi, Amman and New York. He began his career working for the United Nations in the Department for Disarmament Affairs in New York, which was headed at the time by Under-Secretary-General Yasushi Akashi from Japan.
How would you describe the relationship between the Netherlands and Japan?
‘Friendly, strong, and unique are words that come to my mind. Our shared history goes back more than 400 years. That is truly unique. The first Dutch ship came ashore in 1600 and bilateral trade started in earnest in 1609. Besides trade, the Dutch also shared knowledge on Western sciences. And in the post-war era, our democracies promote a peaceful international legal order and we enjoy friendly political ties.’
Where do you see opportunities for economic cooperation?
‘The Netherlands is a high-tech and innovative country with an international orientation. This allows for many possible partnerships with Japan. For example, in key economic sectors such as agriculture and food, life sciences and health, water, sustainable energy, chemical industry, logistics and creative industries. And the European headquarters of many Japanese companies are in the Netherlands, due to our highly skilled population and state-of-the-art infrastructure.’
How important is the environment and climate change in the relationship with Japan?
‘The environment, climate action, and more generally the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are important topics for us both. We have got to press on ambitiously.’
Where do you live?
‘My wife and I live in the beautiful and historic Dutch residence on the Embassy compound in Minato-ku, Tokyo. We have three adult children, who live in Europe.’
When living abroad, what do you miss most?
‘Two things. First, being far away from family and friends. Second, bicycle paths. We have endless kilometres of bicycle paths and country roads that allow you to enjoy the historic Dutch cities and unique nature in an extraordinary way.’
What is your favourite Japanese dish?
‘Just naming one dish would do no justice to the Japanese cuisine. Sushi, sashimi, tempura, wagyu, udon, ramen, kare-raisu, tonkatsu – I could go on and on. What a treat!’