Japan economy doing well, envoy tells local businessmen

Despite earthquake, Israeli companies doing business in Japan still have opportunities, ambassador says.

HARUHISA TAKEUCHI 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Most of Japan is now functioning as usual despite the devastating earthquake that hit the country on March 11, a fact that Israeli companies doing business there should be aware of, Japanese ambassador to Israel Haruhisa Takeuchi said on Tuesday.
“This may not be the normal time to talk about business,” Takeuchi said at a business seminar in Tel Aviv organized by the Japanese External Trade Organization, Jetro, but added that the major cities outside of the greater Tokyo region were “untouched” by the recent earthquake and tsunamis and that even in Tokyo itself the economy was “functioning rather well.”
“I’m not here to minimize or downplay the heavy impact that the earthquake brings to the Japanese economy. The road to recovery and the reconstruction will be long and difficult, but as the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors stated on March 18, the Japanese economy and financial sector are resilient,” Takeuchi said.
The ambassador also thanked Israel for its support since the earthquake, and for sending an emergency medical team that arrived this week in the Miyagi Prefecture, the region worst hit by the earthquake.
The business seminar, organized in conjunction with the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, was planned before the 9.0-magnitude undersea earthquake struck off the east coast of Japan on March 11, triggering a series of tsunamis and aftershocks, killing at least 11,000 people and causing a nuclear crisis that has yet to be fully contained.
The seminar went ahead as planned, focusing mainly on educating Israeli businessmen about export opportunities to Japan and on the contrasts between the two countries’ business cultures. Speakers included the heads of the Tel Aviv offices of Mitsui and Itochu, two major Japanese sogo shosha, or conglomerates, with interests in Israel.
Japan’s commercial attaché to Israel, Shunsuke Sato, said that one of the most common questions asked of him in Israel was why Japanese companies weren’t as proactive as their South Korean and Chinese counterparts in making approaches to Israeli companies.
He said that as Japan already has a relatively large technology market, Israel is seen by Japanese companies as just one amongst many countries competing for their attention, alongside economic powerhouses like the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and South Korea.
Sato added that if Israeli companies didn’t make the effort to “promote [their] businesses [specifically] to Japanese companies, [then] Japanese companies will never realize Israel’s unique ideas and technology.”
He advised that Israeli companies should initiate direct contact with Japanese companies to which they would like to sell their products, adding that persistence would pay “as Japanese companies have a trait of being cautious first time customers.”
Bilateral trade between Israel and Japan stood at $2.37 billion in 2010, a 19 percent increase over the previous year.
However, the balance of trade stands firmly in Japan’s favor, with exports to Israel reaching $1.76 billion last year. Growth continued this year in the leadup to the earthquake; in January bilateral trade stood at $243.7 million, a 38% rise compared to January the previous year.