Japanese buyers attending the ongoing 115th China Import and Export Fair are hoping trade between China and Japan can pick up despite a lackluster outlook brought by the political tensions between the two countries.
Masahito Yasuda, managing director of Japan's Association for the Promotion of International Trade, told Xinhua at the fair that he hoped 2014 could see an end to two years of declining China-Japan trade.
"Businesses should be separate from politics," said Yasuda, "and I think both sides need to make some efforts to help the trade pick up."
In 2013, bilateral trade declined 5.1 percent year on year to 312.55 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for 7.5 percent of China's total trade value, according to China's General Administration of Customs. China's exports to Japan dipped 0.9 percent to 150.28 billion U.S. dollars while exports in the other direction declined 8.7 percent to 162.27 billion U.S. dollars.
Bilateral trade in 2012 fell 3.9 percent year on year to 329.45 billion U.S. dollars, about 8.5 percent of China's total, according to the administration.
The declines came despite the depreciation of the Japanese yen and China's becoming the world's largest goods trader, mainly due to political tensions triggered by territorial disputes and the war shrine visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in December.
"Because of the unclear attitude of China's central government, a lot of trade promotion delegations from provinces of China are afraid of coming to Japan to promote their products, which I think is a pity," Yasuda said.
Meanwhile, changes in investment structure have played a part.
"Japanese investment in China's manufacturing industry is reducing. Companies now focus more on the market and the service industry in China," according to Yasuda.
Japan's direct investment in China in 2013 fell 4.3 percent from a year earlier to 7.06 billion U.S. dollars, data from Japan's Commerce Ministry shows.
"We are still optimistic about the future," Yasuda said, "but at the same time we have to admit that for Japanese companies doing business in China, there is always a potential risk."
Koji Ishii, export sales manager of Japan's Star-M, a precision tools company since 1923, is among those who are optimistic.
He said Star-M's product sales in China have grown in the past two years. Star-M has an agent in China and Ishii expects sales of its products through the agent to grow by 80 percent.
"The reason for our growth, I think, is because we not only sell products, we sell our technologies as well. We teach our customers how to use our tools and we provide great customer service and technical consulting services," said Ishii.