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DTI turns to Japan for help in launching small businesses

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THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has invited more tech-focused small and medium-scale businesses from Japan to partner with Philippine companies that can help in launching their products in the market.

“We hope to ride the crest of the rising wave of Japanese SMEs migrating into the ASEAN region in search of new markets and technology partners,” DTI Commercial Counselor and Special Trade Representative Dita Angara-Mathay, said in a statement on Monday.

“To further create value, we want Japanese firms to partner with like minded locals to co-create value through synergies that enhance capital efficiencies whether it be in intellectual capital, HR or finance,” she added.

The Philippine Trade and Investment Center in Tokyo said it had been inviting potential partners in Japan to explore possibilities of tying up with banks, local government units, arrangements that the government can assist in establishing.

The most recent of which is the first exploratory mission into the country of firms, mostly SMEs from Sanjo City in Niigata Prefecture, Japan’s most famous city for metal works.

Ms. Angara-Mathay said the agency had facilitated an agreement between a Japan-based firm and a local firm, to be formalized in a memorandum of understanding that will be signed in the first quarter of next year.

She added that firms can take cues from some players that have succeeded from this DTI-initiated effort.

Ms. Angara-Mathay cited as example Biotech JP Corp., the Philippine unit of Niigata-based Biotech Japan Corp., which is now known for its Echigo brand rice in the domestic market.

The product is a result of the company’s fermentation technology used to develop dietary rice from a local Philippine rice strain, for kidney disease patients.

The company, which signed in 2015 a letter of intent for the commercial launch of the Echigo brand in the country, currently has a research and development center and production facility in Batangas.

“BTJ is a perfect example of how a DTI field office plays a highly effective role in shepherding a Japanese SME that ventured into unknown business territory, leveraged on a talented pool of workers, used indigenous material inputs, integrate these with Japanese technology to develop a new product with high social impact in agriculture (farmers) and medicine (patients) for the Philippine domestic market. From our country’s base we can expand to the region,” Ms. Angara-Mathay said.

“Chairman [Kiyosada] Egawa hopes to use the Philippines as a springboard to ASEAN for the sales and distribution of Echigo rice,” she added.

In the first seven months of 2018, foreign direct investments from Japanese businessmen totaled P2.65 billion, well above the P171.4 million during the same period in 2017.

In 2017, Japanese investment approvals reached P8.9 billion, placing Japan as the top source of foreign direct investments for the year. —Janina C. Lim