|22 October, 2017

UAE: Strong trade base for Japanese companies

Japan-based firms invest in the UAE as a lucrative business platform and test bed for emerging technology

United Arab Emirates Dirhams in hand

United Arab Emirates Dirhams in hand

More and more Japanese businesses are choosing the UAE as a preferred base to extend their reach in the Middle East market. The number of offices currently stand at 440, according to the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), and this is expected to grow further, as both countries aim to enhance bilateral relations in sectors, notably food and tourism.

"We believe that the food sector is one of the potential sectors that should be penetrated. Japanese food is excellent healthy diet and we can contribute to enrich the quality of life through their exports. Tourism is also one of the prominent sectors. Due to the visa waiver for Emiratis in 2017 and the enrichment of Muslim-friendly facilities in Japan, we expect more visitors to Japan and enhance businesses related with tourism industry," said Masami Ando, Managing Director, JETRO Dubai and MENA.

He added that the innovation field also holds potential, as the UAE is known to be a strong initiator, with Dubai as a test bed for new technologies. This opens up market opportunities for Japanese tech companies.

Industrial tourism trends

"The UAE has been Japan's leading trade partner in the Middle East and the second largest supplier of mineral fuels to Japan. To date, its trade value stood at $25.3 billion in 2016, with Japan's imports at $17.3 billion and exports $8 billion," said Ando.


Globally, products and services from Japan is synonymous with quality, and he added that the passion for the art of making things in the Far East country shines through.

"Quality, sophistication and attention to detail are key elements in Japanese products, and highly skilled Japanese craftspeople are abundant in Japan. Whether it's cutting-edge technology or age-old traditional handicrafts, Japanese craftsmen strive for excellence. Urging people to know "how it's made, how does it work, and what makes it go?' are the keys to the promotion of industrial tourism," he said.

Based on this concept, JETRO has been promoting industrial tourism in different sectors such as food, agriculture and fisheries products; manufacturing and infrastructure; art, design and traditional goods, and machinery and heavy industry. Ando believes that the recent visa waiver for UAE citizens to Japan since July 2017 will further boost industrial tourism.

En route to Expo 2020

In May 2017, Japan received approval from the Japanese Cabinet to participate in Expo 2020 Dubai. JETRO Tokyo will undertake the role of forming a team of experts to manage the Japanese pavilion at the Expo 2020 in Dubai, and the basic concept of its set-up will be announced by the end of this year.

"To date, JETRO is actively involved with the Expo team in Dubai to increase the involvement of Japanese companies in related projects and programmes," Ando added.

Japanese SME Platform in the UAE

In early 2017, Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the UAE Ministry of Economy (MOE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on key aspects concerning innovation and development of small and medium enterprises across the UAE and to work jointly for promoting Japanese SME investments in
the UAE.

Under the framework of this MoU, JETRO established a Japanese SME Platform in the UAE in October this year, which is Japan's 22nd platform of its kind in the world and the first in the Middle East. The platform will work in cooperation with various UAE government departments, Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the various free zones in the country.

Furthermore, JETRO signed a MoU with the Department of Economic Development of Dubai for mutual cooperation in developing trade and investment, as well as for promoting Japanese SME investments in
the UAE.

Event participation

GITEX: In the recently concluded GITEX in Dubai, JETRO supported seven start-up companies to showcase their new technologies.

Arab Health: JETRO promoted Japanese medical equipment and technology.

GULFOOD: Japanese companies and their products were introduced at the largest food-related exhibition in the region.


JETRO is a Japanese government-related organisation that works to promote mutual trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world. In Dubai, JETRO supports Japanese companies to set up entities in the UAE and other countries in the GCC, as a one-stop window. In addition to that, JETRO organises business delegations to the UAE and other GCC countries, alongside pavilions in prominent exhibitions and trade fairs. It lends support to Japan's Small and Medium Enterprises to exhibit and find markets for their products overseas.

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