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Japanese Firms Starting to Shake of Arab Boycott Strictures, Group Finds

Japanese corporations are beginning to shake off the strictures imposed by the Arab boycott and show increased willingness to do business with Israel, an American Jewish Committee delegation reported after returning from a week of meeting with Japanese officials in Tokyo.

The change began with the Persian Gulf War, according to AJCommittee President Alfred Moses, who headed the delegation, made up of members of the organization’s Board of Governors.

“Japan’s limited response to the Gulf war led to some alienation from their longtime friends, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait,” Moses said.

“Arab markets are now less attractive to Japanese business, and the Japanese government has consciously looked to other countries in the area, including Israel, for economic opportunities and expanded cultural and diplomatic ties,” he said.

Japan is also anxious to diversify its petroleum sources, making it less dependent on the Middle East, the AJCommittee leader observed.

Another factor is the desire to improve Japan’s image in the United States, where Japan’s compliance with the boycott has been widely criticized, Moses pointed out.

AJCommittee reported that talks are expected soon between Israel and Japan on a possible Export-Import Bank loan to help finance development in Israel, as well as discussions beginning this summer to give E1 A1, Israel’s national airline, landing rights in Japan.

In a meeting with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, it was confirmed that the long-awaited assignment of a Japanese commercial attache to Tel Aviv will take place this fall, when a ministry delegation is expected to visit Israel to expand economic relations.

TOKYO HASN’T USED ‘FULL INFLUENCE’

“Although this progress is very encouraging, and Japan is slowly emerging from its unidimensional Middle East stance,” Moses said, “the Japanese government has yet to assert its full influence toward combatting the Arab boycott.”

Japan seeks to be more actively involved in the Middle East peace process, but its participation will not be fully accepted until it is seen as more forthcoming in its dealings with Israel.

the AJCommittee delegation traveled under the auspices of the Japan Center for International Exchange, in cooperation with the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

It was the seventh AJCommittee visit to Japan in two years through its Pacific Rim Institute.

A highlight of the trip was a seminar arranged for delegation to present the views of American Jews on domestic and international issues to 80 Japanese government, business and media leaders.

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