• Kyodo News


Japanese businesses are rushing to get their employees and their families out of Egypt following President Hosni Mubarak’s announcement not to seek re-election, but many of them have not been able to leave the chaotic north African nation because of airport crowds, the companies said Wednesday.

Major trader Marubeni Corp. said it was looking for ways to help its employees leave the country, as they were having trouble securing flights due to the congestion. Trading house Sojitz Corp. also said it had not been able to book flights for its employees.

Sumitomo Corp., another trader, said it has given priority to employees with families to leave the country. But it remained unknown as of Tuesday evening whether they were able to make it to local airports.

Nissan Motor Corp. confirmed that four of its employees had left the country, while Hitachi Ltd. was planning to get most of its 20 employees out of Egypt by the end of Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi Corp. said it was closely monitoring the political situation, asking its employees stay home for the time being.

Suzuki Motor Corp. and Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. said they have not decided when they would resume their Egyptian operations, which have been suspended.

In recent years, Japan’s businesses have focused on Egypt’s economic potential, calling it a country with strategic importance as they try to expand into Arab and African markets.

Companies including Toyota Motor Corp. and Toshiba Corp. have plans to build production centers in the country.

Given the situation, government leaders were cautious.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference that sociopolitical stability in the Middle East is vital for the Japanese and global economies.

Mubarak said in a televised statement Tuesday he would not run for re-election in the September presidential polls, after an estimated 1 million-plus people rallied across the country demanding that he immediately step down after ruling the country for 30 years.

The unrest in Egypt has also affected Japanese travel agencies, which have canceled tours to the country since the massive demonstrations began a week ago.

JTB Corp. said it has already canceled all Egypt package tours that were scheduled this month and the cancellations would affect some 3,000 customers.

“We place priority on the evacuation of our customers, not the impact on our business,” a JTB official said. The company said the evacuation of people currently on JTB tours in Egypt will be completed when the remaining 50 travelers depart Wednesday.

The Hankyu Travel group also said it had decided to cancel all of its tours to the country until early March.

Elsewhere, the Japan Arabic Calligraphy Association canceled its exchange program, which was scheduled to be held in Egypt in March.

“Given the situation, we won’t be able to participate in the program even if we have been invited,” said Koichi Yamaoka, the association’s secretary general.

Kenichi Hayama, who heads a friendship group of companies based in Japan and Egypt, said that while concerns over the unrest will linger for some time, he doesn’t foresee any major damage to bilateral trade, adding that Japan-Egypt trade doesn’t really involve oil.

“President Mubarak, now in his 80s, appeared pale on television. His 30 years in office were a bit too long,” Hayama said. “The only solution may be his exit.”

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