How attractive is Japan for foreign businesses

Among OECD countries, one of the high-performing nations in terms of GDP is New Zealand, which makes it an attractive destination for foreign investment. Helping to facilitate that as well as promote the global reach of New Zealand companies is New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. A government agency, NZTE uses its connections and to help New Zealand companies grow in international markets. NZTE currently works with around 3,000 New Zealand businesses with 700 intimately.

For a number of years, NZTE has had an active presence in Japan where the operation is currently headed by Trade Commissioner Jason Reeves who works with his team of 10 based in the NZ Embassy. Jason has worked in Japan for the past three years and previously worked in New Zealand for Fonterra (7 years) and Japan Airlines (10 years). He joined NZTE in late 2011 and has been Trade Commissioner for about 21 months.

Japan Today visits Jason Reeves at the New Zealand Embassy to hear more.

What is the image of New Zealand and its products in Japan?

We last conducted a survey in 2011 and the images conjured up were that New Zealand is clean and green, and is known for kiwifruit, and having lots of sheep. The perception is changing though – people are starting to really take notice of New Zealand as a leader in innovation – from digital production technology used in films such as "Avatar" and "The Hobbit," to new developments in food technology.

How important a market is Japan for New Zealand?

As an export market, Japan currently sits at No. 4. China is our leading export market (volume) followed by Australia. Outside aluminium, dairy is our largest export into Japan, predominantly supplied to the food service/industrial sector as opposed to the retail sector. The last 12-15 months have been encouraging. We’ve seen New Zealand companies from the food and beverage sector, as well as some high-tech entities (software applications) commence operations in Japan. Japan is on the radar for many New Zealand companies who are showing a renewed interest in the market.

How do you work with New Zealand companies?

Through a deep engagement process incorporating market research, we work with companies to find out what their aspirations are and what they want to achieve in the Japanese market. We then work with them to refine their offerings to meet the exacting requirements of the Japan market. We also assist companies in gaining access to supply chains and support expansion of operations from market entry to market growth and positioning. Businesses with longevity understand the needs of the market. In our experience, providing assistance at the early stage of a customer’s international journey greatly assists the prospects of success.

We run our flagship food and beverage trade show – New Zealand Food Connection -- each year in May. The aim is to provide a foothold for New Zealand food and beverage businesses to enter the market. We have a highly experienced food and beverage team in Tokyo with many in-market contacts and we have a good penetration rate into the Japanese food service sector.

Is New Zealand an attractive place for Japanese companies to invest in?

Yes, it is. In the last 12 months, New Zealand has seen significant Japanese investment in the forestry and food and beverage sectors. Assisting Japanese companies invest in New Zealand is one of our key activities. We now have an investment manager dedicated to that, and one of our key objectives is to encourage foreign direct investment into New Zealand as well as attracting high net worth individuals to New Zealand. We have run a number of investment seminars over the past 12 months and have been engaging with the financial sector to raise the profile of New Zealand as an investment destination.

What is the appeal of New Zealand to investors?

The economy is fundamentally robust. Among OECD countries, it is one of the highest performing countries in terms of GDP and the forecast for the next 2-3 years is favorable. Government debt is low, and we have a solid banking system that offers good returns. We are encouraging active investment in biotechnology, ICT, infrastructure, oil and gas and the primary sector where we have a well-established pedigree.

What is a typical day for you?

I typically get in the office around 7:30 a.m. A normal day would consist of meeting customers, in-market partners, supporting the team, working with colleagues on regional projects as well as normal administrative functions. January and February are when we plan and prepare for major projects for the next fiscal year and April through May are when a number of trade shows and promotional events are concentrated. Outside the above, the team is passionately focused on working with our customers to deliver greater impact with their Japan endeavors.

How do you like to relax?

I enjoy hiking (bush walks) reading and meeting interesting people and of course New Zealand food and wines.

Editor's note: New Zealand food and beverages are being featured at Costco stores nationwide from May 23 until June 14.

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