Having worked in France several times, what are your favorite aspects of the country, the culture and French society?
This is my fourth time staying in France, a country in which I have lived for a total of twelve years. I first stayed in Paris to study in university for two years from 1999 to 2001, more than 20 years ago and I love the ‘art de vivre’ (art of living), a concept enjoyed by French people.
While Japanese people tend to put a lot of weight on work, although this may have changed recently in Japan, French people seem to enjoy an excellent work-life balance.
French people are good at spending their private time, or more precisely their life, enjoying their time with friends and family and there is much to learn from this attitude and way of life.
What role does JETRO Paris play in strengthening the Japan-France relationship?
‘Talk to JETRO First’ – this is our motto. JETRO Paris aims to be a familiar and readily available presence for Japanese and French companies through our four pillars.
1. Attracting French Direct investment in Japan: We support the creation of innovation between Japan and France by promoting French direct investment in Japan in highly innovative sectors. JETRO aims in particular at accompanying French cutting-edge startups willing to develop activities in Japan on the short, mid or long term through a wide domestic and foreign network of 76 overseas offices and 49 offices in Japan. So, what are the benefits that French companies intending to invest in Japan can find by using JETRO’s services?
We offer potential investors a wealth of information on the business environment in Japan and the possibility to connect them with local authorities. We also provide these companies with free one-on-one consultations with specialists and experts in regulatory, financing, tax, visa, human resources and real estate issues. Under certain conditions, fully-equipped temporary offices called IBSCs “Invest Business Support Centers” which are located in the six major Japanese cities are available to allow these companies to start their business. Let me emphasize that our support is completely free of charge.
At this point, let me quote some of the latest French success stories in Japan which JETRO has accompanied in some way: LumApps, leader in corporate intranets and collaborative platforms, IDEOL, leader in floating offshore wind power, ICAPE, expert in printed circuit boards technologies or Exotec, designer of disruptive robotic systems for the supply chain.
2. Another aspect of our mission is to support the expansion of Japanese start-ups in France and promote tie-ups between French start-ups and Japanese companies.
To tighten links with the French ecosystem, JETRO signed cooperation agreements with incubators and accelerators such as Orange Fab Asia in June 2021, in order to help Japanese startups to expand internationally, in particular to France.
Through its Global Acceleration Hub system, notably set up within JETRO Paris, JETRO offers promising Japanese startups personalized services: identification of potential partners, mentoring, networking, participation in events, etc.
JETRO Paris and Orange Fab Asia will cooperate on the occasion of tech events such as Viva Technology 2021 in Paris and Web Summit 2021 in Lisbon, matchmaking events, webinars, conferences, etc.
JETRO Paris has also signed a protocol of agreement with the new JapanTech cluster based in the Grand Est region. This is the first agreement with a regional dimension signed by JETRO in France to develop the Japanese economic presence in the Grand Est region and support the development of local companies towards Japan. Following this signature, JETRO Paris and the Cluster JapanTech Grand Est signed a tripartite agreement with the Japanese start-up Biodata bank. This start-up, which develops a thermal bracelet to prevent heat stroke, is accelerating its development in Europe with the support of JETRO and the actors of the Grand Est region.
To encourage investment and export activities of Japanese SMEs in France, JETRO accompanied several Japanese start-ups as Ale Co. Ltd in new space, the biotech company Cyfuse which settled an office in Strasbourg or Innophys which started to market its exoskeleton in France this spring. In the field of environment and energy, we also support two Japanese startups, TBM and Tenchijin who were hosted on the Japan Pavilion in Vivatech 2021.
Facing society challenges, Japan is seeking to attract young and very innovative seeds. This is why I am very glad that eight French startups (Flying Wales, Ynsect, Smiile, Upciti, InUse, Bystamp, Metron, EverImpact) among 292 who applied from 53 countries, were selected as winners of the Japan Challenge for Society 5.0-Accelerate Innovation with Japan-, a competition for international startups (outside Japan) interested in collaborating with Japan. The winners have benefited from a mentoring program and B2B meetings with Japanese companies, in an open innovation approach. They exhibited on the JETRO Global Connection booth at CEATEC2021 ONLINE, which was held virtually from October 19 to 22, 2021.
3. JETRO Paris also promotes Japanese exports of agricultural, forestry, fishery products and foods. In particular, we have an organization within JETRO called JFOODO, which specializes in promoting the export of specified Japanese foods. There are three priority export items to France: Japanese sake, Japanese rice flour, and Japanese beef (wagyu).
As part of the development of Japanese food exports to France, JETRO has opened last September a Japanese food product showroom, financed by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture. Located near the international market of Rungis, the showroom displays about 300 products from about a hundred companies over the entire period, and will also be punctuated with thematic presentations on organic and fermented products… This promotion event targets French buyers who will be able to negotiate with Japanese suppliers online. The showroom will be opened until March 2022. If you are an importer, distributor, chef, retailer or food professional, we will be happy to welcome you to present and have you taste the emblematic products of Japanese cuisine, such as sake, sauces, seaweed, as well as products that meet new consumer trends such as organic, vegan, gluten-free products. Buyers will discover the selected products by making an appointment to visit the showroom. A product catalog is also available on demand.
4. JETRO Paris also provides information on French policies and the country’s legal and labour environment to Japanese companies interested in France by holding a series of webinars for the investors and Japanese affiliated companies in France to share economic and industrial situations.
What impact did the pandemic have on the work of JETRO Paris?
The events in which JETRO Paris was engaged were forced to be cancelled, postponed or move online.
Our switching to the utilization of online tools was quite quick. As most exhibitions were cancelled, we have switched the business facilitation to online and we will continue to provide business connecting opportunities by utilizing online tools.
On the other hand, with our Japanese food and Japanese sake promotional events, it was difficult to convey our messages online as the testing experience is important. Online and ‘real’ events are key with these types of events and in the second half of 2021, more ‘real’ events will be held.
As a result of moving restrictions due to the pandemic, JETRO engaged in various digital business promotion operations which support cross-border open innovation and accelerates the digital transformation (DX). The J-Bridge program was launched as a platform to facilitate collaboration and create opportunities for Japanese companies and overseas startups/businesses. Let’s also mention JETRO’s support to setup a Japan Pavilion in VirtualExpo or to the Maison&Objet market place, MOM.
What steps can be taken to take the bilateral partnership between the two countries to the next level?
It’s important for Japan and France to work together as though both countries are looking at the entire world. What has become increasingly important for our two countries is the realization of the ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’. This is not surprising in a security context but it is also important in terms of economic security.
France has the world’s second largest exclusive economic zone, many of these areas are located in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, so its interest in these regions should be high.
It is vital that Japan and France, which share common values such as democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the observance of international law, to build a cooperative relationship. I also think that there is great potential for Japan-France cooperation on start-ups. While large Japanese groups tend to be ‘self-sufficient’, they are gradually turning their attention to cross-border open-innovation opportunities because of fast-paced research and development.
In this context, JETRO and French counterpart Business France, have just renewed their cooperation targets in a 2021 action plan. Priorities are to promote innovation between France and Japan by taking advantage of the maturity of the French Tech ecosystem to develop matchmaking between startups, partners and investor companies, mainly in the fields of telemedicine, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and Fintech. Business France and JETRO will work together to organize meetings and promote partnerships in these sectors.
With the high-quality of sciences and math talent in France and the strength of French deep-tech start-ups, we would like to see more alliances between Japanese companies and French start-ups in the near future.
Ieaki TAKEDA, Director General, JETRO Paris, since 10 September 2020 Ieaki TAKEDA was born in Nara on 27 February 1971. He joined MITI (Ministry of Trade and Industry) in 1994, after graduating from the University of Tokyo (Bachelor of Laws), and held several positions in the field of trade policy. In 2010, he was appointed Director of Japan-U.S. Security and Defense Cooperation at the Ministry of Defense before being appointed Commercial Counsellor at the Embassy of Japan in France (2012-2017). Ieaki Takeda is quite familiar with France where he studied (University of Paris 1 and IEP Paris) and was previously First Secretary at the Embassy of Japan (2003-2007). Before coming to Paris, he was Director of International Exhibitions Promotion at METI and was the Japanese Delegate to the Bureau International des Expositions, BIE (2012-2020). In these capacities, and after a hard-fought election, he led Japan to the podium as the host country of Expo 2025.