Mitsubishi, other Japanese firms visit Israel to strengthen business ties

Japanese investments in Israel total some $3.5 billion over the past five years, Israel’s Economy Ministry says, as senior delegation, including minister, arrives

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Japan’s Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko speaks during an exclusive interview with The Associated Press at his office in Tokyo Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018; (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Japan’s Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko speaks during an exclusive interview with The Associated Press at his office in Tokyo Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018; (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

A delegation of businesspeople from Japan — the largest and most senior ever — is visiting Israel this week, headed by Japanese Minister of Economy Hiroshige Seko. The group includes 150 representatives of some 90 firms, including giant corporations like Mitsubishi, Toshiba and Hitachi, Israel’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a statement.

The Japanese economy minister will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s economy and industry minister Eli Cohen, with the aim of strengthening the economic cooperation between the two countries. The two nations set up the JIIN — Japan Israel Innovation Network — in May 2017 to jointly promote economic cooperation.

Members of the delegation will visit Israeli firms in the fields of cyber, life sciences, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, and attend business seminars and personal meetings.

Seko’s visit to Israel with such a senior delegation of businesspeople “marks another significant milestone in the strengthening of economic relations and business cooperation between Israel and Japan,” the ministry said in a statement.

Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen attends a Kulanu faction meeting in the Knesset on December 24, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The number of Japanese companies investing and operating in Israel has increased in recent years, with Japanese investments totaling $3.5 billion over the past five years, the Israeli economy ministry said.

In July 2017, Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma said it acquired Israeli pharmaceutical firm Neuroderm for $1.17 billion. In 2016, Sony bought Altair, a maker of chips, for more than $200 million, while Japan’s Softbank has made investments of some $200 million in Israeli companies, the ministry statement said.

In addition, the number of Japanese companies opening offices in Israel has grown to more than 70.

Trade between the nations has also grown, with exports of Israeli products to Japan jumping 46% to $870 million in the first three quarters of 2018, compared to the previous year, with most of the exports being in machinery, optical devices, metals and chemicals. In the first nine months of 2018 Israel imports from Japan rose 7% to $1.51 billion, the statement said.

During the visit the two parties will sign a memorandum of understanding for collaboration in the field of digital health, and will work to promote partnerships in automotive industry and cybersecurity, the ministry statement said.

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