Japan and Germany in “Wa” (Harmony)
Iwami Asakawa, GTAI’s representative in Japan, uses his extensive knowledge and experience of Japanese business practices to understand what potential investors think, plan and desire, in order to help harmonize business interests between the two nations.
Cityscape of Tokio | © iStock.com/TommL
Mr. Asakawa, the Japan Germany Industry Forum (JGIF) in Tokyo is an annual event at which Japanese investors can discover business opportunities in Germany. Will a particular industry be the focus this year?
Since its start in 2005, we have selected JGIF topics that are of great interest to both countries: electronics, communications, robotics and medical devices are all regular topics. This year’s 13th JGIF will focus on energy. We will look at the respective energy markets, especially focusing on the post-liberalization of the energy retail markets.
Who is the event targeted at and what can participants expect to find?
JGIF is targeted primarily at Japanese investors, relevant industry associations and multipliers. They are presented with market data and industry trends from Germany. Importantly, they can also network with GTAI experts and with representatives of German federal states to get a sense of what working with Germany will be like. Every JGIF is organized and hosted by GTAI but the federal states support it and take part in an event called Mini Messe.
Recently JGIF has been getting strong support from the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan (AHK), along with other significant parties like the German Embassy, JETRO, Keidanren, NEDO etc. This year I hope to see big players from the field of energy.
Mr Asakawa has been GTAI’s “man in Japan” since 2005. Previously, he held a senior role in the overseas operations team of an electronics giant. GTAI Japan is located at the Tokyo offices of the AHK.
Which industries are attracting a lot of attention from investors at the moment?
In general, I would say that cars and electronics are always target sectors. Also healthcare is very important, as our two counties both have to contend with ageing societies. Furthermore, we are seeing a spike of interest in energy storage: car batteries, industry and home usage. Japan has considerable expertise in battery products as well as in raw materials. New ICT-driven businesses like AI, robotics and e-commerce have started to show concrete movement too.
What are the advantages of Germany as a location?
A strong market, high productivity, quality workers, robust infrastructure, high living standards and the Made in Germany brand.
How can you help Japanese companies invest in Germany? And how do you work with the AHK?
I identify potential Japanese investors, inform them about the market conditions and convince them to take the next step, with help from our experts in Berlin. Of course I will also tell them if I think a project won’t be suitable.
Working with AHK-J, we are constantly building up a detailed picture of the economic landscapes in Japan and Germany and where good opportunities exist. There is a lot of knowledge exchange regarding the status of potential investors, selection of speakers and topics, and many other aspects.
What was your biggest success last year?
I could name a few prominent successes – one of Japan’s most successful apparel retailers or a high-profile chemical company, for example – but as I said, we treat all our clients confidentially.