Jordan seeking to woo Japanese investors

The Japanese- Jordanian Investment Initiative aims mainly to encourage Japanese investors to expand their business to Jordan.

2017/12/03 Issue: 134 Page: 21

The Arab Weekly
Roufan Nahhas

Amman - Jordan and Japan are seeking to consolidate their diplo­matic relations by expand­ing economic cooperation and facilitating mutual in­vestments through the Japanese- Jordanian Investment Initiative.

The initiative, which principally aims to support Japanese compa­nies expand business to Jordan, was in response to growing Japa­nese investors’ interest in taking advantage of Jordan’s political and economic stability.

Jordan is tenth in the region in the ease of conducting business in the “Doing Business 2018: Re­forming to Create Jobs” report pub­lished by the World Bank.

“Our aim is to find and create op­portunities for Japanese investors who are seeking a stable environ­ment. Since the Jordanian market is not big enough, Japanese compa­nies can utilise Jordan as a business hub for the Middle East and North Africa market,” said Kazuya Nakay­ama, president of the initiative.

“The role of the initiative is to promote business between Jordan and Japan and when we say busi­ness, we mean both ways: from Ja­pan to Jordan and vice versa.”

Nakayama, who visited Jordan to explore areas that might be of an interest to Japanese companies such as Dead Sea products, gam­ing and animation, said “there are lots of opportunities for both coun­tries.”

“Jordan has been making steady progress towards economic liber­alisation while aiming to nurture internationally competitive indus­tries and this is an excellent devel­opment,” Nakayama said.

There are 304 Japanese-affiliated companies operating in the United Arab Emirates, compared to 21 in Jordan, the Japanese official said, stressing: “We need a different strategy for Jordan from that in the UAE.”

Nakayama argued that Jordan enjoys several key characteris­tics, including natural resources, highly qualified, educated and well-trained human resources and advanced infrastructure in various fields, making it a favourable part­ner for joint projects.

“I think the advantage of Jordan is its people who know very well the MENA market and my mes­sage to the Japanese companies is why you don’t work with Jordanian companies to get into that market,” he added.

A Jordan-Japan business forum was organised by the Jordan In­vestment Commission and the Jap­anese-Jordanian Investment Ini­tiative on the sidelines of an official visit by Jordanian King Abdullah II to Tokyo in October 2016.

The forum included bilateral meetings between Jordanian and Japanese business leaders in the information technology, anima­tion, games industry, cosmetics and Dead Sea products, pharma­ceutical, tourism and olive oil in­dustries; 26 Jordanian business­men and 100 Japanese participated in the forum.

“Most Japanese think that the Middle East is not safe enough to do business and changing this per­ception is the biggest challenge. Another challenge is to increase Japanese companies’ interest in the MENA market as their main fo­cus at the moment is on the Asian market,” Nakayama said. “As for Jordanian companies, the biggest challenge is the determination for quality control. Japanese market expects 100% quality control; 99% is not enough.”

The World Bank report stated that Jordan had a number of eco­nomic strengths, including the ease in getting electricity, register­ing a property, trading across bor­ders and, to a certain extent, pay­ing taxes. However, the kingdom has a mixed record on protecting minority investors, resolving insol­vency, enforcing contracts, issuing construction permits and securing credit.

King Abdullah recently met with a delegation representing Japan’s Toshiba Corporation that took part in the World Science Forum 2017, the largest scientific event in the region. Media reports said the Japa­nese company expressed interest in investing information and commu­nications technology in the country and providing training to qualified Jordanians.

Official figures indicate that Jor­dan has obtained from Japan about $1.3 billion in soft loans, grants and technical assistance. Japan is the tenth biggest trading partner of Jor­dan in terms of volume, which is estimated at $596.2 million yearly, Global Edge said.

Earlier this year, the Jordanian Council of Ministers endorsed measures to ease doing business in the country and to stimulate the na­tional economy in accordance with Jordan Vision 2025.

Some 307 Japanese nationals lived in Jordan as of October 2016 while Jordanian nationals resid­ing in Japan are estimated to be no more than 155 as of December 2016.

Roufan Nahhas, based in Jordan, has been covering cultural issues in Jordan for more than two decades.

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