The Manufacturers Association of Israel and the Japan External Trade Organization on Wednesday agreed to boost bilateral business ties in an effort to double annual trade volume between the countries to $5 billion within the next three to four years. As part of the business delegation accompanying Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on his visit to Japan, Manufacturers Association president Shraga Brosh met with Japan External Trade Organization chairman Yasuo Hayashi. During the meeting the two agreed on the formulation of a work plan for the next two years, which will be led by the Israel Export Institute and the Israel branch of the Japan Trade Organization. The plan will focus on increasing the exposure of Israeli exporters to the Japanese market in a variety of fields, including medical equipment, software and pharmaceuticals. Bilateral trade between Israel and Japan in 2007 was about $2.48b., including $676 million of Israeli exports, an increase of 1.2 percent compared to 2006, and $1.8b. of imports from Japan, an increase of 44% over the previous year. Exports to Japan include optical tools, electric equipment and plastics. Imports from Japan are mainly cars and machinery. Brosh also met up with representatives of the Japan Manufacturers Association; the sides agreed to establish a joint committee that will recommend actions to encourage cooperation between the industry members of the two organizations. The business delegation visited a number of multinational companies, including Panasonic, Sony and the R&D center of NTT, and were presented with their newest technologies. Meanwhile, Olmert signed a joint declaration with Japan's industry and trade minister to set up a working group that will examine the possibilities of expanding agricultural trade relations between Israel and Japan. Israel wants to broaden the current agreement, which limits exports to citrus fruits and persimmons, to allow exports of other fruits and fresh vegetables from the Arava. Agriculture exports from the Arava to Japan could generate tens of millions of shekels a year, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon said, since Japan imports about 60% of the food consumed by its 127 million citizens. Speaking at a joint Japan-Israel economic conference in Tokyo on Tuesday, Olmert promised that Israel's Research & Development spending would amount to 10% of gross domestic product in five years. He called on Japanese companies to open R&D centers in Israel and offered them tax breaks, including zero corporate tax and zero tax on the withdrawal of dividends.