Promoting Landscape of Opportunities

Nobuyuki Nakajima, Managing Director, JETRO Dubai and MENA
Nobuyuki Nakajima, Managing Director, JETRO Dubai and MENA

In the background of recent developments, the climate of mutual collaboration and participation has grown stronger on the back of consistent efforts made by JETRO Dubai to forge stronger ties

Published: Fri 9 Dec 2022, 9:00 AM

As the Managing Director of JETRO in the UAE, what is your immediate assessment about the bilateral trade ties between the two countries?

Assalaam Alaykum, I have recently arrived at JETRO Dubai and I am thrilled to be granted this opportunity and serve as Managing Director of JETRO Dubai and MENA. This is my first assignment in the Middle East region, and very much looking forward to a productive stint in the UAE and sincerely hope that I can make as much as possible contributions to further promote and strengthen the bilateral relationship between the UAE and Japan to collaborate on the evolving multi-industry landscape in the MENA.

In 2022, Japan and the UAE celebrated the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, which were established in May, 1972. The UAE has one of the most open and innovative economies in the world, and over the years, we have recognised that the UAE is a dependable and significant economic partner for Japan on the global stage. Bilateral trade between the two countries exceeded $30 billion in 2021, with UAE exports to Japan accounting for $26 billion and imports from Japan rising to $6.2 billion. In 2021, the UAE was ranked as Japan’s tenth-largest trading partner globally. The major components of bilateral trade are mineral fuels, transport equipment, general machinery, electric and electronic equipment, communication equipment, metals, textiles and foodstuff, while the bulk of Japan’s imports from the UAE were mineral fuels like oil and gas, and metals, like aluminium. The UAE is the second largest crude oil supplier to Japan.

In the recent years, cooperation between Japan and the UAE has been evolving into a variety of areas such as infrastructure, renewable energy, outer space, agriculture and food, medical and health care, retail business, tourism, content and creative industries, and much more. The synergy between the UAE and Japan in the energy sector is increasingly vital today in securing technologies that will help the UAE achieve its ambition goal of realising carbon neutrality by 2050.

The UAE’s social stability and ease of business setup provides an excellent platform for investment opportunities for the private sector. It is worth mentioning that there are 4,300 Japanese expats living in the UAE, and about 450 companies operating in the UAE, which are dealing in various sectors. The official signing ceremony of joint declaration on the implementation of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Initiative (CSPI), which took place on September 28th, 2022, is another milestone on the economic and diplomatic front. Under the umbrella of this CSPI, we will aim to further strengthen the strategic partnership between Japan and the UAE in various areas of mutual interest.

The UAE and Japan are entering into 50 years of bilateral relationship. What role can JETRO play to help boost the ties between both nations?

As Japan and the UAE commemorate their 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations establishment, Japan is looking forward to working jointly not only with UAE, but the rest of the countries in the Middle East as well. JETRO will continue to engage with the UAE through its invitation programmes, regional tie-up programmes and its participation in the various exhibitions and trade fairs in the UAE, supporting businesses in the UAE and Japan to find appropriate partners in their bilateral trade and investment. Additionally, we will be organising a variety of online business meetings and webinars to further the synergy between the two countries. Under the umbrella of this CSPI, we will aim to further strengthen the strategic partnership between Japan and the UAE in various areas of mutual interest. We hope this year will be marked as a special beginning to the next 50 years as we continue to strengthen our bilateral cooperation as strategic partners.

JETRO Dubai was established in 1981. Along the way, how has JETRO boosted the avenues for Japanese businesses in the UAE?

JETRO has fostered strong economic ties between the UAE and Japan over the last three decades and we are proud of the collaborative progress we have over the years. JETRO has been promoting Japan’s overseas business in food products as well as medical equipment through Middle East’s largest exhibitions like ‘Gulfood’ and ‘Arab Health’. This year, six cutting-edge companies from Japan, specialising in artificial intelligence (Al) technology to support diagnosis of diseases, unique medical devices for improving patients’ quality of life with Japanese high-quality technology, among others, took part in Arab Health Exhibition under the Japan Pavilion set up by JETRO, which was a big success. Similarly, around 20 companies participated in the Gulfood Exhibition. JETRO has actively organised events to introduce and promote to the UAE high quality and delicious Japanese ingredients and food products. Japan is globally renowned as the pioneer of technological advancements that touch human lives all over the world. From automobile sector to health care, we are proud to expand the Japanese touch to innovative and upcoming sectors such as nanotechnology, clean and sustainable energy technology among others. With the growing penetration of the information age over the last decade, Japan has also made promising progress into the world of innovative startups that are working to solve real world problems across multiple disciplines via technology.

We are proud to note that over the years, the startup scene in Japan is growing very rapidly and the country has created dozens of successful startups. Currently, the Japanese government is actively promoting and supporting startups through several ways. The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Technology and Industry, launched J-Startup, a programme in June 2018 with a mission to foster and accelerate Japan’s startup sector. For the past few years, JETRO has also been focussing on small to medium companies with new and innovative technologies, especially on startup companies. Exhibitions in Dubai like the GITEX, are also being used to introduce Japan’s startup initiatives. This year, JETRO organised the Japan Pavilion at GITEX North Star Dubai 2022, the largest startup event in the region. The startups were among 17 innovative and dynamic Japanese companies with unique cutting-edge technologies from various fields such as AI, agri tech, healthcare, education, fintech, environment, energy and clean tech, space tech, and many more. The UAE is offering the most flexible and mature start-up environment and we believe that both the countries have a great potential to collaborate and benefit from each other, especially since the UAE is globally renowned for the ease of business setup. We believe that it is the perfect time to collaborate with Japanese startups and foster growth in numerous areas not only in the UAE and MENA region, but also in the world at large. The Japanese content market in the Middle East is slowly but consistently growing, hence, content creators and distributors have an immense opportunity to expand their business in the region. JETRO is also extending a great effort in promoting Japanese content business by conducting business matching programmes between local buyers in the Middle East and Japanese content creators and sellers. Through these business matching events; we can see an increasing number of Japanese content titles now available in the region.

What kind of support does JETRO offer to Japanese companies looking to invest in the UAE and vice-versa to the UAE organisations in Japan?

JETRO provides comprehensive and integrated support to encourage greater foreign investment in Japan. These efforts include providing essential information about Japan's investment environments, markets, industries, licencing, and much more. Foreign companies, including startups wishing to set-up their base in Japan, can avail information on business incubation service such as ‘Invest Japan Business Support Centers’ (IBSCs). JETRO also conducts promotional activities and invitational programmes, both in Japan and overseas. In addition, JETRO aids in connecting foreign firms with potential Japanese partners and arranging survey tours of regions or industries. This significantly helps foreign and foreign-affiliated companies advance in Japan’s various regions.

JETRO enjoys healthy relationship with government entities in the UAE and GCC countries and frequently exchanges vital information that is crucial for the business communities in both counties. JETRO, through its global network of 76 overseas offices in 55 countries worldwide, as well as 48 offices in Japan, including its Tokyo and Osaka headquarters, creates a closely-knit network that provides a comprehensive support base for Japanese business.

Additional Efforts

During the Expo 2020 Dubai, which closed its gates on 31st March, after six eventful months of welcoming visitors from around the world, JETRO successfully organised and managed the operations at Japan Pavilion with pride; welcoming visitors from across the globe with utmost hospitality while showcasing Japan’s history, culture, and cutting-edge technology. JETRO made great efforts to ensure that all visitors could enjoy their visit safely by implementing a strict Covid-19 health and safety protocols inside the Japan Pavilion. During the BIE award ceremony day held on 30th March 2022, which was held at the Expo 2020 Dubai site, Japan Pavilion won the Gold Award in the Exhibition Design category for large pavilions (Category A – larger than 2,500m2).

Way Forward

Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai : At the closing ceremony of Expo 2020 Dubai, the UAE returned the BIE flag to BIE, which was then handed over to Japan's delegation for the Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, as the next country to host the next edition of the World Expo.

JETRO’s Intellectual Property Department is continuously focussing on its goals to share the latest IP information among the Japanese stakeholders and to further enhance the awareness of the UAE authorities as well as the general public through various events.

For the year 2022, IP Department spearheaded several anti-counterfeiting webinars and educational seminar in collaboration with law firms and government authorities not only in the UAE, but also in Africa region.

Last May 27, the topic on Anti-Counterfeiting Measures in Nigeria was discussed during the ME-IPG’s quarterly meeting, emphasising how to effectively protect an IP right in the country. While on June 24, a Business Compliance Dialogue among Japanese companies with the Dubai Economy (DED) was held where market inspections and cracking down operations of counterfeit products were explained.

JETRO’s IP Department also actively collaborated with the Dubai Customs in October through an online IP workshop where information on how to identify genuine versus fake Japanese brands was shared and through an IP Educational Seminar with the Japanese School in Dubai that raised the students’ awareness about the basic knowledge of intellectual property. Activities among the Japanese students were also provided to better understand the importance of IP as well as how to identify between fake and genuine products. The IP Department will continue to conduct more and expand its activities among Middle East and North Africa to protect the intellectual property rights and fight counterfeiting in the region.


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