Business

Abe, regional leaders use U.S. visit to showcase Japan

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may be in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly, but he is also busy using the visit to promote Japan as the place to do business.

With a pledge to make the nation more friendly to foreign businesses, especially ahead of next year’s Group of Seven summit in Ise-Shima, Mie Prefecture, he has been urging U.S. companies to invest in Japan.

At the Invest Japan Seminar 2015 held in New York on Monday, Abe boasted about the progress he has made with his “Abenomics” economic policies, trumpeting that foreign investment in Japan increased tenfold in the year after he took office in December 2012.

He touted that Japan will see rapid growth in the pharmaceutical industry and also in the information technology outsourcing sector.

“I will keep continuing with the reforms in order to make Japan the most business-friendly country in the world,” Abe told attendees. “At the G-7 summit in Ise-Shima, people will see Japan as a much more attractive place.”

The prime minister said that Tokyo was one of the most attractive cities to live in as it had twice as many Michelin-starred restaurants as Paris and three times that of New York.

Abe, who earlier this month marked 1,000 days in office, faces a crucial time to accelerate efforts to revitalize the economy.

One of his strategies has been tapping more foreign investment.

Having been criticized for high corporate tax rates, the government lowered its effective corporate tax rate to 32.1 percent this year from 34.6 percent last year. Abe has expressed intentions to lower it further — to below 30 percent over the next few years.

Tokyo has also introduced a new corporate governance code that calls on corporations to have at least two independent directors to enhance transparency.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon praised Abe’s reforms on labor flexibility, trade and corporate governance during his keynote speech at the seminar.

“It is great to see the prime minister is dealing with issues across the board,” he said.

Scheduled to host the G-7 Summit in Mie Prefecture next year and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, Japan is being aggressively promoted.

Both Mie Prefecture and the city of Yokohama took advantage of the seminar in New York by sending along their governor and mayor, respectively, as envoys.

Mie Gov. Eikei Suzuki said in an interview with The Japan Times that the prefecture will work to create more global talent to attract foreign companies.

He also said he will utilize the summit to boost tourism in Mie, which is well known for its ama, or female free divers, and Ise Shrine.

Suzuki added that the prefecture was planning to invite ambassadors from various ASEAN countries to promote its natural environment and industrial competitiveness in February next year.

“After the summit, I would like people around the world to search (on the Internet) for Mie, even though it is internationally little known now,” said Suzuki. “I think the summit is a great opportunity to showcase Ise Shrine in the sense that everybody can co-exist regardless of religion.”

Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi promoted Yokohama’s attractiveness, citing its success in luring Apple Inc. to establish a research center in the city.

The nation’s second-largest city also touted its five-year tax reduction incentive for companies.