OSAKA — Tetsuro Kawakami, chairman of the Kansai Economic Federation (Kankeiren), announced Jan. 7 that he will step down in May when he completes the current term. He will be succeeded by Yasuo Shingu, chairman of Sumitomo Metal Industries, Ltd.Kawakami took the top post at the prestigious business organization in the Kansai region in May 1994 when his predecessor, Osamu Uno, resigned in the middle of a two-year term. The group represents the business community in Osaka and its surrounding regions. “Three years ago, I took the post as a short-term, ‘relief’ pitcher during rapidly changing times. After serving for three years, I think that it’s an appropriate time for a change in the head,” Kawakami told a news conference.During his term, Kawakami handled the aftermath of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake and paved the way for a project to expand the Kansai International Airport. Kawakami said Shingu, 70, had consented informally to assuming the chairman’s post. Shingu also serves as chairman to Kansai International Airport Co.Kawakami will formally ask Shingu to take the post next month and the new appointment is to be officially approved at a general meeting of the organization in May. Shingu is expected to exercise strong leadership as his firm is considered one of three most powerful companies in Kansai along with The Kansai Electric Power Co. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.Kawakami, 68, plans to step down partly because of ailing health, according to federation sources. Shingu will probably select his vice chairmen from among top executives at Kansai Electric Power and Matsushita Electric Industrial, both of which are said to have distanced themselves from the group’s current leadership, the sources said.