A delegation of arguably the most influential group of Japanese business leaders to visit New Zealand in 40 years is in Wellington to talk economics and deepen the longstanding relationship between the two countries.
The party of more than 40 made a high-profile entrance when they arrived yesterday morning on board a long-haul Boeing 777-300ER aircraft that flew direct from Tokyo to Wellington.
They met with Prime Minister John Key, and were scheduled to chat with Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, and ministers Tim Groser, Craig Foss and Simon Bridges.
A spokeswoman from the prime minister’s office had been advised by government officials that the delegation was the “the most senior group of Japanese businessmen to visit New Zealand since the 1970s”.
The Japanese are from a powerful business organisation known as Keidanren, a sister organisation of Business New Zealand which hosts a meeting today between the two groups.
It is the first time a delegation from Keidanren – led by its chairman Yonekura Hiromasa, chairman of Sumitomo, a minority shareholder of the Tiwai Point aluminum smelter – has visited our shores.
Business NZ chief executive Phil O’Reilly said the delegation included “extremely senior Japanese business people” who were here to get a better understanding of what was going on in the economy.
“Business may well follow after that but it’s not really the purpose of this exercise and we are not treating it that way.
“It is about having a conversation between two very good friends . . .”
Official statistics for the year ending December 2012 shows Japan was NZ’s fourth-largest export market at $3.2 billion.
Major exports included wood and wood pulp, dairy products, fruit and nuts, and meat.
The Japanese delegation leaves today for Australia.