Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) hosts a series of special events in Washington, D.C. (Oct. 24) and Miami (Oct. 25) on investment opportunities in the world's second largest economy. Tadashi Izawa, newly appointed president of JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization), recently discussed various issues regarding the Japanese market in a wide-ranging interview with Richard Wallace, EE Times' vice president and editorial director. The exchange follows.
EE Times: President Izawa, congratulations on your appointment as the new president of JETRO. Can you tell us about yourself and familiarize our readers with JETRO's work and your plans for the future? Can you also tell us about the event you will be holding in Washington, D.C., next week (Oct. 24)?
Tadashi Izawa: It is a great pleasure for me to return to Washington, D.C., after working at the Japan Embassy here as Minister for Trade, Industry and Energy Affairs from May 2000 to July 2002. So I am excited to be able to host this "Invest Japan Symposium 2007."
JETRO is a government-related organization that works to promote mutual trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world. JETRO's core focus in the 21st century has shifted toward promoting foreign direct investment into Japan and helping small to medium-size Japanese firms maximize their global export potential. The Invest Japan Symposia 2007 will focus on "Creating Value Through Innovation" and showcase case studies detailing the strategies employed by global shipping and logistics giant FedEx and leading retail property developer Chelsea Property Group detailing the growth of their Japanese investments and operations. To further emphasize emerging opportunities within Japan's increasingly dynamic service sector using American innovations, a panel discussion will also feature three innovative information- and technology-oriented firms explaining why they have chosen Japan as a site for their future international expansion efforts.
EE Times: The theme for this event will be "Creating Value Through Innovation," yet many people believe Japan's strengths in manufacturing, engineering and design, as well as those of other developed economies, are being eclipsed by other nations. For example, during a recent trip to India I learned that many Japanese firms are now using teams of Indian system architects and designers to develop the latest HDTV products, when they used to do all of their own development. Given this shift toward outsourcing that we are seeing all over the world, what is the advantage and competitive strength of Japan moving forward? Why should U.S. firms be paying attention to the Japanese market?
Izawa: I think, mainly, there are three reasons why U.S. firms should be paying attention to the Japanese market.
1. Japan is a promising market, with a market scale ranking near the top of developed nations.
2. Partnerships with Japanese companies enable foreign-affiliated companies to leverage their respective talents, which is vital to remaining globally competitive. Japanese companies emphasize enhancing product development and manufacturing efficiency, making Japan the ideal arena for innovation.
3. Japanese companies continue to expand their market reach throughout the East Asia region. Their established networks provide foreign-affiliated business partners smooth access to these growth markets.
Japan's core strengths lie in highly developed industry clusters represented by the automobile and information and communication technology (ICT) industries, where companies throughout the value chain, from basic materials to final products, are competing to develop and launch high value-added products.
As the speed of worldwide product development is getting faster, the complexities are increased. To maintain competitiveness, some Japanese companies are entering strategic alliances across industries. The automobile and ICT industries are good examples. The two industries are converging fast after the launch of hybrid automobiles. Toyota and Matsushita, for example, set up a company to develop nickel hydride batteries in 1996, and agreed with crossholding of shares to develop and produce leading-edge cars this year. Toyota's eco-friendly and safety technologies are supported by not only car technologies, but also electronics technologies. Like this, in the area of high technologies, there are still the advantages and competitive strengths of Japan.