Belfast Telegraph

Why we should have a yen for turning Japanese

By David Elliott

Japan, a country which has fallen into recession three times since 2008 and which still has government debt over 200% of GDP, doesn't immediately grab you as the ideal trading partner.

Granted, the region still has a lot to do to sort out its money system, what with the yen surging in value and Japanese shares taking a tumble last week, but to overlook the world's fourth biggest economy – behind the US, China and India – would be foolish.

Particularly if you consider it imports over $850bn (£600bn) of goods and services each year.

After launching into a round of fiscal stimulus over the last few months, prime minister Shinzo Abe has been rewarded with news that growth is set to take off in the coming months.

Good news for the six Japanese firms already doing business in Northern Ireland and the 2,700 employees they support.

From tobacco to IT, electronics to engineering, the array of goods produced by this half-dozen industrious businesses is impressive and shows the depth of Japanese involved here already, one which accounts for more foreign direct investment than any region in Asia Pacific.

But there's more.

Japanese investment flow into the UK as a whole last year surpassed 1trn yen (£0.007trn) and was only just pipped at the post in the race to become the largest by the US.

Latest figures show that 1,105 Japanese companies invested in the UK, mostly in car manufacturing but also in renewable energy, research and development, employing 141,000 people.

Hopefully Mr Abe's visit to Northern Ireland will kickstart that process in the months and years ahead.

His monetary stimulus seems to have helped his own economy, so maybe a economic shot in the arm can help ours.

David Elliott is the Belfast Telegraph's Business Editor

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