Israel’s Economy and Industry Minister Nir Barkat and Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura met in Tel Aviv on Monday and signed an economic and innovation agreement between their two countries. The agreement aims to enhance cooperation in various fields, such as digital transformation, cyber security, renewable energy, health care, and agriculture.
The ministers also agreed to launch a joint study group to explore the possibility of a Japan-Israel Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which would be a precursor to a free trade agreement. The study group will examine the potential benefits and challenges of such a deal, as well as the areas of mutual interest and complementarity.
Barkat said that there is “vast potential” for Japanese businesses to invest in Israel and increase trade with one of the world’s leading economies. He noted that the two nations share “deep-rooted historical and cultural ties, built on common values and innovative mindsets”1. He expressed his ambition to deepen the bond between Israel and Japan, and said he is keen on collaborating closely with Nishimura to achieve this.
Nishimura said that Japan values Israel as a strategic partner in the Middle East, and that the economic and innovation agreement will serve as a “solid foundation” for further strengthening the bilateral relationship2. He said that Japan is interested in learning from Israel’s experience and expertise in innovation, especially in the fields of digitalization, cyber security, and health care. He also said that he hopes to see more Israeli companies enter the Japanese market, and more Japanese tourists visit Israel.
Trade delegation of 80 Japanese companies accompanies Nishimura
Nishimura was accompanied by a trade delegation of 80 Japanese company representatives, who participated in business meetings and seminars with Israeli counterparts. The delegation included executives from major corporations such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, Hitachi, Panasonic, Toshiba, Sony, and Softbank. The delegation also visited some of Israel’s leading innovation hubs, such as the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
The delegation was organized by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), a government agency that promotes trade and investment between Japan and other countries. JETRO has been active in Israel since 1954, and operates an office in Tel Aviv that provides support and information to Japanese and Israeli businesses. JETRO also hosts an annual conference called JIIN (Japan Israel Innovation Network), which brings together leaders from both countries to discuss opportunities for collaboration in various sectors.
Barkat and Nishimura addressed the JIIN conference on Monday, where they highlighted the achievements and potential of the bilateral partnership4. They also witnessed the signing of several memoranda of understanding (MOUs) between Japanese and Israeli companies in fields such as cyber security, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and smart mobility.
Israel seeks to expand its free trade network
The possible free trade agreement between Israel and Japan is part of Israel’s efforts to expand its network of trade partners around the world. Israel already has free trade agreements with several countries, including the United States, the European Union, Canada, Mexico, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Colombia, Panama, South Korea, Vietnam, and most recently, the United Arab Emirates.
Israel is also in the process of negotiating or upgrading free trade agreements with other countries, such as India, China, Brazil, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia, Kosovo, Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana.
According to Barkat, a free trade agreement with Japan would benefit both countries by reducing tariffs and non-tariff barriers on goods and services. It would also increase Israeli exports to Japan, the third-largest economy in the world. Israel’s main exports to Japan are electrical equipment, chemical products, scientific and optical instruments, and general machinery. Its main imports from Japan are transportation machinery, general machinery, electrical equipment, and chemical products.