Jorge Lasheras knows firsthand how to operate with the Japanese business fabric. He was president of Yamaha in our country for 22 years and now serves as a meeting point for companies of both regions through the Business Circle Japan Spain (CEJE); to strengthen productive ties. At the moment, trade and investment relations between countries are moving at a calm and even negative pace in certain aspects, although now with the new EU-Japan agreement They hope to relaunch the points of union.
At what point are Spain's relations with Japan?
Growing. Exports have doubled in the last eight years. But we represent a small percentage in yours. It is good to double and there are some 9,000 Spanish companies that export regularly but we have a challenge: Spain does not deserve only 0.5% of total exports to Japan.
In spite of having increased trade relations, how can we make them reach the levels of the rest of the European Union?
There is no miraculous solution. Only perseverance and patience. There have to be more companies that accept that challenge. It is complicated to settle there because the market is difficult, there are special regulations and Japanese consumers are very sophisticated; If they see that your product falls in quality, they throw you out. When you go to the Japanese market, the first years you do not achieve much, you can get discouraged along the way, but you have to insist; the successful companies we know all tell the same story. It is also essential to sign the commercial agreement of the European Union with Japan.
How to overcome the obstacles to establish in the Asian country?
Easy is not, but this has already been understood by Spanish companies. What common sense advises is to look for a local ally (a "partner", forming a «Joint-venture») that takes you through the recesses of the regulations, to do that work.
In other EU countries, they already export to Japan more than they import. In Spain, this trend has not occurred. How can the commercial balance be reversed?
If the trade balance is negative but imports help the development of the economy, I do not see it as bad. But it is good to reach a balance. Relationships have to grow but the Japanese went to Europe earlier than we did there. We have to recover that lost ground.
As for their investments in Spain, they are in free fall since 2016. The previous year, even without official data, less than 100 million are expected, when two years ago the figure was more than 500 million. Japan has stopped having interest?
The priorities of Japanese investment in Europe are others. They have invested a lot but, surprisingly, in the United Kingdom. There are large automotive factories, for example, that require a lot of investment. The EU accounts for more than a third of its foreign investment; a 30%, U.S; and about 20%, Asia. Europe is very important; If that great flow comes so little to Spain, the impression is that the priorities of the companies are going another way, which leads me to say that what we have to do is to make an effort to strengthen the good work of the companies. Japanese companies that are here; and that we sell and make an effort to sell Spain to the Japanese business community as an attractive country where you can earn money.
Why is not Spain in its priorities? Or is it our country that disdains them?
We do not despise them at all, but the other way around. But that does not translate into persistent interest. We need to work on selling ourselves, to show that the country works and that there are companies that do it very well.
The United Kingdom monopolizes a large part of the investment in the EU. After Brexit, is an opportunity open for Spain?
It requires a much deeper and long-term plan. In any case, with Brexit or without him, in Spain the business world we have to do a promotion work and intensify this so that the country is always considered among the interests and priorities of Japanese companies. As we do not know if there will be Brexit, better shut up.
The EU trade agreement with Japan opens the door to both markets and their companies. Can you quantify its impact in the case of Spain?
It is very complicated, it requires a lot of study. Although what can happen is that they save more than us.