PM Lee hosts Japanese business leaders to lunch, discusses areas of cooperation

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meets Japanese businessmen over lunch in Tokyo on Sept 28, 2016.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meets Japanese businessmen over lunch in Tokyo on Sept 28, 2016.PHOTO: MCI

TOKYO - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hosted eight Japanese business leaders from various industries including finance and pharmaceuticals on Wednesday (Sept 28).

During the 1½-hour session, they discussed potential areas of closer cooperation between Singapore and Japan companies.

Mr Lee told the business leaders of Singapore's will to work together with Japan as it transforms its economy, upgrades its workforce and moves towards new technologies including robotics and fintech.

Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMFG) president Koichi Miyata told reporters after the lunch that Singapore forms the core of its Asian business, lauding the Republic for its talent and social infrastructure.

"We want to be a gateway to Japanese, especially medium-sized companies, to do their businesses in Singapore and the surrounding countries," added Mr Miyata, who heads one of Japan's three largest banks.

Chugai Pharmaceutical chairman Osamu Nagayama, meanwhile, noted that both Singapore and Japan face the issue of an ageing society.


As the head of a life sciences and healthcare business, he said: "There is a lot we can collaborate on with Singapore, particularly in modern medicine that requires a lot of knowledge in molecular biology, linking to artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT)."

He added that the entire industry has been "busily discussing about disruptive technologies", which presents many opportunities to be explored with Singapore companies.

Dr Yoshiharu Inaba, chairman and chief executive officer of Fanuc Corp, the largest producer of industrial robots, said there are three or four ongoing projects to automate processes in Singapore companies.

The company has been in Singapore for about 30 years, and Dr Inaba said it is a "hub for the supply of technical advice". As such, its Singapore base has been providing "very important support to its (presence in other) Asian countries" including Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and India.

The other leaders who attended the luncheon were:

- Hitachi board chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi

- Sumitomo Chemical board chairman Osamu Ishitobi

- Fujitsu president Tanaka Tatsuya

- President Fumiya Kokubu, of trading giant Marubeni

- President Yuji Kakimi, of Jera Co, a joint venture between the world's second and third largest LNG buyers.

Earlier on Wednesday, PM Lee was called on by the secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Mr Toshihiro Nikai.

PM Lee will, later this evening, meet his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe for a bilateral summit meeting.

At the meeting, Japan will recognise Singapore's late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew with its highest honour - the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers - for his contributions towards forging bilateral relations over several decades.

PM Lee will be receiving the award from Mr Abe, on behalf of the late Mr Lee.