‘Kuwaiti-Japanese’ businessmen discuss investment, joint projects

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Committee chief vows support for Kuwait’s development

Kuwaiti-Japanese Businessmen’s Committee Co-Chairman Tareq Al-Mutawa and Kuwaiti Ambassador to Japan Hasan Mohammad Zaman.

TOKYO, Nov 20, (KUNA): Kuwait and Japan on Tuesday discussed measures to enhance business cooperation between the two countries with focusing on infrastructure projects and small and medium-sized businesses.

The 22nd meeting of the Kuwaiti- Japanese Businessmen’s Committee held here featured three sessions – Economic Analysis, “New Kuwait 2035” Development Plan, and Cooperation in the field of training Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The one-day forum, co-chaired by Tareq Al-Mutawa and his Japanese counterpart Hiroshi Saito, brought together some 90 government officials and business people from various sectors of both countries. In his opening remarks, Al- Mutawa pointed out it was the first annual meeting since the official ratification of an agreement on technical cooperation between the two governments, saying, “It is considered the main relevant event witnesses during 2018.”

The agreement is a great achievement crowning the constant efforts of this committee for more two decades, said Al-Mutawa. The pact gives significant focus to the human resources development activities, such as providing technical training to Kuwaiti nationals, dispatching Japanese missions to Kuwait to conduct, with their Kuwaiti counterparts, surveys of economic and social nature, according to Al-Mutawa, who is a board member of Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Kuwait has several initiatives to promote its capital markets and introduce advanced financing this year. These developments help raise the capital infl ows to Kuwait, boost liquidity, and place it on the map of foreign investors,” he said, expressing hope that there will be cooperation between the authorities of capital markets in Kuwait and their counterparts in Japan in the fields of technical and financial education.

Expertise
The head of the Kuwaiti side also stressed that Japanese expertise is required in many areas such as energy, security, clean and renewable energy, small and medium enterprises development, small cities and ports, e-commerce, human capital building and the development of Kuwait industries, given that Japan is one of the first countries in the world which has competitive advantages in these fields. For his part, Saito said the relationship between the two countries has been progressing steadily, such as bilateral tax and investment treaties that came into force in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and the Az-Zour North Power Plant project starting commercial operation about two years ago, in which Japanese companies participated. “As a three-way cooperation involving Kuwait and Japan, the Nghi Son petrochemical refinery complex in Vietnam began fullscale operation in May. I hope that we will continue to develop projects that will create a win-win situation for the both countries,” he said.

Kuwait has made progress on the Second National Development Plan (2015-2019) for rebuilding of infrastructure, in which Japan is much interested, said Saito, adding that Kuwait has also accelerated the improvement of the investment climate and related legislation.

“Since the establishment of a new organization promoting privatization, various public and private partnership projects have been also promoted. I hope that this committee will serve as a platform to create synergies of both countries’ development,” he added.

At the gathering, the Kuwaiti side briefed the Japanese participants on investment climate and opportunities under the New Kuwait 2035, including key projects in energy, oil, power, smart cities, the stock exchange, developing the islands, establishing Al-Hareer City. As part of the plan under the New Kuwait 2035, the government plans to invest KD 34 billion (USD 112.4 billion) in strategic projects by 2019, hoping to raise a third of that capital from the private sector, according to the presentation, which described the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model as one of the key vehicles. The meeting also covered a report on macroeconomic trend and monetary/financial stability in Kuwait that was presented by Central Bank Deputy Governor Yousef Al-Obaid, and support for SMEs.

The Japanese side provided an overview of the economy, Japan’s experience on electricity and water sector and its policy on SMEs. They also touched on a policy dialogue on electricity and water between the two countries, which was established in 2015 with the aim of exchanging information of future projects in Kuwait and applicable technology of Japan and discussing possible cooperation projects in the electricity and water sector.

The Kuwaiti delegation included Ambassador to Japan Hasan Mohammad Zaman and representatives from the Agency for Developing Madinat Al-Hareer (Silk) City and Bobiyan Island, the Boursa Kuwait, the Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority, the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development Affairs, the Kuwait Authority for Partnership Projects, the Ministry of Electricity and Water, the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences, as well as unions of investment, banks and industries.

In a statement to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) and Kuwait TV after the meeting, A-Mutawa praised the role of the committee’s annual gathering. “Every year, we meet either in Tokyo or in Kuwait with representatives from the both governments and private sector of the two countries. Cooperation between two sides have been very smooth and productive for the last 22 years,” he said.

The Kuwaiti-Japanese Businessmen’s Committee, first launched in 1995, have led to distinguished results such as preparing the Kuwaiti environmental protection policy in 2004 and the environmental educational program called Kids ISO 14000, and the contribution to the abolishment of “offset” program for resolving some issues concerning offset facing Japanese companies.

Cooperation
The committee was organized by the Japanese Cooperation Center for the Middle East with the objectives of encouraging and promoting feasible and viable projects and joint ventures available in both countries. The gathering is seen as the most important framework to strengthen partnership between the government officials and business people of the two countries.

Established in 1973 under the sponsorship of the Japanese government, the center has long played a bridging role between Japan and the countries in the Middle East and the North Africa region on the private-sector level by providing cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, economy and technology. Meanwhile, Japan’s head of the Kuwaiti-Japanese Businessmen’s Committee reaffirmed on Tuesday his country’s continued contribution to the economic growth of Kuwait. “As Japan heavily relies on Kuwaiti crude oil, our country shall actively invest and expand businesses in Kuwait in return, which will contribute to the development of the Kuwaiti economy and employment promotion,” Japanese Co-Chairman of the committee Hiroshi Saito told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) after the committee’s annual meeting in Tokyo.

“For that purpose, our committee aims to help remove obstacles that Japanese companies many face,” said Saito, renewing committee’s intention to facilitate the necessary support and cooperation to that end. For example, the committee has played a significant role in the abolishment of “offset” program that had caused troubles for Japanese firms operating in Kuwait. Participants at Tuesday’s meeting had active discussions about the development of the bilateral cooperation between the two countries, according to Saito, who is Honorary Advisor of Mizuho Financial Group.

“This year, in addition to representatives from the private sector, many of those from the government sector attended the meeting. We had an in-dept discussion covering projects under the New Kuwait 2035 development plan, and the establishment of a government agency for the promotion of the related investment, as well as the development of the Kuwait stock exchange,” Saito said. There was also presentation about current status of an electricity and water project, and other key economic issues in Kuwait, while the Japanese side offered Japan’s intention to support in the field of water and its experience of small and medium enterprises. Meanwhile, at the meeting, Saito offered optimistic view of more Japanese private sector’s involvement in Kuwait given that Kuwait enjoys economic stability despite the current geopolitical risks in the Middle East

By Miyoko Ishigami

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