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With export opportunities broadening in Japan, now is a good time to consider sending a staff member over to establish a presence.

"The Japanese Government has announced a policy direction to increase foreign investment from 2.8 percent to 10 percent by the year 2010," explains Michael Clifton, Austrade’s Osaka/Japan-based senior trade commissioner. "This in turn has led to more acceptance of international goods and services."

Japan is Australia’s number one export destination but, despite good strategic reasons to set up there, less than 100 Australian firms have a presence. "Having an employee based in Japan is a very effective way to increase your business’s export success," says Clifton.

If you want to be serious about Japan, it’s not a market you target once or twice a year. You should at least consider going there once a month, or base a staff member there, advises Paul Gallagher, executive director of the Australian–Japanese Business Corporation Committee.

"It isn’t an option for everybody to base a staff member in Japan. People need to understand, though, there’s more than just one strategy, such as getting an agent in-country to boost your export success," he says.

"The Japanese business psyche is such that if you have a person off-shore who’s a good operator, the local presence rates well from not just a servicing point of view, but the relationship-building perspective. For Japanese, in particular, the quality of the relationship is most important."

Australian businesses can look to take advantage of emerging developments in Japan, says Clifton, such as its need to introduce labour-saving technologies and demand for services, particularly in the financial, education, mining, healthcare and advanced manufacturing sectors.

Australia is also in a favoured position with the Japanese Government, says Austrade chief economist Tim Harcourt, due to free trade negotiations, which will have positive spin-offs for Australia’s agriculture and services sectors. "Australia is seeking cuts in tariffs and non-tariff barriers and more openness in Japan’s previously closed rural and services markets, while Japan is seeking energy security.

"The gains from the FTA are estimated to be $39 billion and $27 billion to the GDP of Australia and Japan respectively."

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