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Friendship, cooperation and innovation: Collaboration between city and state with Japan under the banner of digitization

Around 250 guests, including many representatives of Japanese companies as well as institutions from Düsseldorf and North Rhine-Westphalia, took up the invitation to attend the New Year's reception for the Japanese business community on Thursday, 18 January in the Rheinterrasse. The invitation was extended by the state capital Düsseldorf, the Office of Economic Development of the state capital Düsseldorf, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitization and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, and the state economic development agency NRW.INVEST.

North Rhine-Westphalia's Economics and Digital Minister Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart and Düsseldorf's Mayor Thomas Geisel, as well as the Japanese Consul General Ryuta Mizuuchi, welcomed the guests with a cordial "Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu – I wish you all a Happy New Year".

Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, Minister of Economic Affairs and Digital Affairs, explained: "Relations between North Rhine-Westphalia and Japan are developing more intensively than ever. I am pleased that I have already had many opportunities to see this for myself in the first few months of my term of office. Japanese companies such as Asahi Kasei, Kawasaki Robotics and Komatsu are increasingly focusing on the location and have recently decided to expand their commitment to the Rhine and Ruhr regions. The recent conclusion of the negotiations on the free trade agreement between Japan and the EU creates ideal conditions for furthering our cooperation"

Mayor Thomas Geisel emphasized: "2017 was a very eventful year for German-Japanese relations in Düsseldorf. One highlight was certainly the joint Düsseldorf evening in Tokyo with over 1,000 representatives from Japanese companies and institutions. In addition, 2017 was a good year for the Japan location Düsseldorf, as we were able to attract a number of new and particularly innovative Japanese companies to the location and celebrate the expansion of Japanese companies already based in Düsseldorf."

The Japanese Consul General Ryuta Mizuuchi stressed the importance of the free trade agreement between Japan and the EU, which is expected to be signed this year: "The liberalization rate of the entire Japanese market once the free trade agreement has come into effect will be 94%." This would therefore provide the opportunity to promote European food culture more in Japan. Altbier and fried potato pancakes might then also find their way to Japan. He said that business opportunities exist for Japanese companies in North Rhine-Westphalia as well as for the local regional economy.

The event, which has been taking place since 1988, is an indication of the special significance of the Japanese economic presence in Düsseldorf and North Rhine-Westphalia. Every year it provides an impressive demonstration of the friendly relations between the state capital, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Japanese community. The annual New Year's reception for the Japanese business community is just as special as the "Düsseldorf Evening in Tokyo" and the "Japan Day Düsseldorf/NRW", the world's largest bi-national Japanese festival.

Review of 2017
In addition to the visit of Mayor Thomas Geisel to the partner prefecture of Chiba and the Düsseldorf Evening in Tokyo, digitization was one of the focal topics of the year 2017. For example, the Investor Seminar, which was organized jointly with NRW.INVEST in Tokyo, as well as the Business Day Japan, took place on 22 May 2017 in Düsseldorf with the theme "Innovation through Cooperation". In addition, the Office of Economic Development of the state capital Düsseldorf organized a guided tour of the newly opened Narrowband Lab and the Innovation Campus together with Vodafone on 28 September. The aim was also to present the dynamic development at the Düsseldorf digital location to Japanese companies based here. With success: In 2017 there were 29 investment projects by Japanese companies in North Rhine-Westphalia. Düsseldorf alone recorded 20 new settlements of Japanese companies in the state capital. Japan Steelworks, for example, opened its new test center in Düsseldorf this year, while Toppan Europe opened its first showroom in Europe in Düsseldorf and now has its new European headquarters in Toulouser Allee. Grohe, now a subsidiary of the Japanese company Lixil and Hitachi, has also expanded at the site. Asahi Kasei is also growing with its European headquarters and has recently opened a research center in the region (e.g. in Dormagen).

Outlook for 2018
In 2018, the focus will remain on digitization, a topic that the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the city of Düsseldorf, Germany's leading digital location, have addressed jointly. The Business Day Japan on 28 May 2018 will focus on the topic "Automobility of the Future", and further events are planned in Düsseldorf and Japan.

The city's office of economic development and the state-owned business development agency, NRW.INVEST, support foreign and German companies with their investment projects and settlement in Düsseldorf and North Rhine-Westphalia during the entire settlement process and with all location issues.