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Sunday, 17 August 2014 22:59

Consul-General of Japan tours Grand Rapids area businesses, touts opportunities

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Kazuyuki Katayama, the Consul-General of Japan Kazuyuki Katayama, the Consul-General of Japan COURTESY PHOTO

A group of business and political leaders had the opportunity to meet with Kazuyuki Katayama, the Consul-General of Japan in Detroit during his Aug. 12 trip to Grand Rapids. Katayama – who acts as a go-between on economic and cultural affairs between the states of Michigan and Ohio and Japan – met with U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Cascade), attended a luncheon at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and toured the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. MiBiz spoke with Katayama on current economic ties between West Michigan and Japan.

Japan obviously has a large automotive footprint in Michigan. Can you talk about what that investment means?

In Michigan, we have 12,000 Japanese residents and we have roughly 470 Japanese companies with facilities. This has created some 36,000 local jobs. Those are mainly related to the automotive industry. Japan is a leading foreign investor to this state. When I had a discussion with The Right Place people today (and) when I spoke with Congressman Amash today, I explained that in the Third District, there are 32 Japanese companies that have created more than 6,000 local jobs. Compared to the east side of the state, I explained that the advantage here is the number of colleges and universities in the area that are very diverse and have very business-friendly conditions. This area is also very strategically important due to its convenient transportation systems.

What other industries besides automotive could expand the economic activity between West Michigan and Japan?

I understand that the medical device industry is very important in this area. Japan is becoming an aging society, so medical and pharmaceutical are growing industries in Japan. The United States is one of the most developed countries in this industry, so generally speaking, I think that is an area where we could complement each other.

What are some resources at your disposal to help leverage further investment in the region?

I think there is still more potential to invite Japanese businesses to come here. Once I go back to Detroit, I will be happy to share what I have learned today with the Japanese community. We (also) have an annual conference between Japanese officials and the Midwest. (We) have nine Midwest states including Michigan attending this annual conference, held this year in Des Moines, Iowa in early September. This kind of conference is a good opportunity for the Grand Rapids (business community) and the government to demonstrate their advantages to the Japanese investors, as well as Japanese politicians who will attend this meeting.

What did you discuss with Congressman Amash?

We had a very fruitful discussion. I’m very glad to know that he’s very interested in bilateral relations. I explained to him the current status of bilateral relations include the number of Japanese residents here and the number of Japanese companies who have invested here and the number of jobs they have created. … He asked about the current economic situation in Japan, so I explained the policies that current Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe is initiating since he came to power about two years ago.

What are some examples of the economic relationship between the United States and Japan?

The U.S. is a very important economic partner (for) trade and investment. We are now negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP, a regional free trade agreement) including the U.S. and Japan and 10 other Asia-Pacific countries. I hope that we are now entering the final stages, but we still need to make greater effort to reach a consensus. This is quite important for both countries. It’s quite important for us to create a new economic order based upon our values. … I think the rest of the world is closely watching what kind of agreement both countries can reach. It is important for us to reach a consensus on automotive issues and some agricultural products.

Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Nick Manes.

Read 41222 times Last modified on Sunday, 17 August 2014 23:11

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