Japan and Israel signed a research and development cooperation agreement on Sunday, the first-such agreement Japan has signed.
The agreement comes as Japan’s Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi leads a business delegation to Israel. It will provide funds for R&D projects taken on together by Israeli and Japanese companies and research centers.
“We continue our efforts to strengthen economic ties with the countries of East Asia, one manifestation of which is the agreement for parallel support of industrial R&D carried out jointly between Japan and Israel,” said Economy Minister Naftali Bennett before signing the agreement. “This agreement represents a breakthrough achievement and a dramatic change in Japanese policy on economic relations with Israel.”
The agreement, he added, will help open Japanese markets to Israeli companies.
Motegi’s visit follows Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s May visit to Japan, in which he tried to shore up economic cooperation, and dispel lingering fears that doing business with Israel would invite boycott from the Arab states.
The Foreign Trade Administration reports that Israeli exports to Japan totaled $762 million in 2013, down 20% from $953m. in 2012. One reason for the decline is the drastic devaluation of the Japanese yen, which lost 25 percent of its value in 10 months.
Imports to Israel of Japanese goods totaled $1.4b. in 2013, compared with $2.08b. in 2012.
Israel’s economic attache in Tokyo, Eitan Cooperstein, said over 6,000 Japanese business people attended its events this past year, and are mainly interested in the fields of technology, defense and cyber security.