Japanese Firms Book Booths at China Import Expo Amid Thawing Ties
Xu Wei
/SOURCE : Yicai
Japanese Firms Book Booths at China Import Expo Amid Thawing Ties

(Yicai Global) May 10 -- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's official visit to Japan has fueled enthusiasm among the latter's companies for the first China Import Expo to be held in Shanghai in November, statistics from the trade fair's exhibitor recruitment office show.

Japanese businesses have responded to the expo enthusiastically, and the government will continue to organize participants and make the show a great example of Sino-Japanese economic and trade cooperation in the new era, Hiroshige Seko, Japan's economy, trade and industry minister, told his Chinese counterpart Zhong Shan at a meeting yesterday. He estimates that the total floor area Japanese exhibitors will take at the fair will reach 10,000 square meters.

China is Japan's largest trading partner, and Japan is the number two trading partner for its close neighbor. Economic data form a barometer of bilateral relations between the two economic powers. Two-way trade rose 10.1 percent on the year to USD75.73 billion in the first quarter, per data from China's commerce ministry.

China exported USD34.4 billion worth of goods and services to its island neighbor, up 7.1 percent. Imports from Japan grew 13 percent to USD41.3 billion. Japanese firms have ramped up investment in high-end manufacturing, environmental protection and modern services.

An uptick in investment activity has occurred among Japanese technology-intensive and high value-added enterprises such as automakers and robotics companies in China. 

Japanese companies are known as active players on overseas markets, and their enthusiasm over the import exhibition attests to the appeal of the Chinese market. Nachi-Fujikoshi Corp. was the first Japanese firm to sign the contract to participate in the expo.

As China's economic model shifts from investment as its mainstay toward a consumption-oriented model, Japanese companies, which have a reputation for high-quality high-technology products, are seizing opportunities from the improving ties to scale up their investment and business development in China.

The auto industry is an apt example. Japanese carmakers have expanded rapidly in China, and the country has gradually replaced the US as their most important market. The Chinese government has pledged to cut import tariffs for auto products and further open the domestic market, and the island country's carmakers will certainly log further increases in China sales.

The expo will provide them with an ideal opportunity to build a stronger presence in the world's largest car market. Several top Japanese vehicle brands, including the Toyota marque of Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co.'s Acura, have signed up for the trade fair.

Chinese consumers now show very strong spending power, and Japan's companies are aware of the market's tremendous potential. The popularity of Japanese video games, anime and manga and  in China has been a shot in the arm for exporters in the former's cultural industry. After a nine-year suspension, the 14th China-Japan Inter-governmental Cultural Exchange Consultative Conference was recently held in Tokyo, where the international import fair became one of the key topics of discussion.

Other Japanese cultural products will soon also stage their Chinese debuts.

China-Japan trade ties are not limited to high-tech, auto and cultural products but encompass almost all sectors and professions. Japan's rapidly-aging society has caused the country's retailers to see the Chinese market as a top growth priority.

Itochu Corp. set up a '1,000 Chinese Speakers Club' in Tokyo last month, and now has about 1,000 Chinese-speaking employees to ease its business growth in China, it announced.

The Shanghai import fair will help Japanese brands tap into the Chinese and global markets, and their innovative products and advanced management models will inspire China's companies, enabling them to contribute more to the 'Made in China' and industry upgrade initiatives.

Editor: Ben Armour

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Keywords: Japan , Li Keqiang , China International Import Expo