To help revitalize the nation's economy, the Japan External Trade Organization must play a key role in supporting Japanese firms in building business networks in East Asia and invite foreign companies into Japan, the new JETRO chairman said.

"In the postwar period, Japanese companies competed domestically and developed globally through exports," Osamu Watanabe, who took the top post of the government-affiliated body in late July, said in an interview. "Now they need to build (business) networks in East Asia to increase their global competence."

As other parts of Asia, including China, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand, have developed economies on industrial accumulation, the Japanese government is now trying to build closer relations with them by forming bilateral and regional free-trade agreements.