The new Japanese consul general in Atlanta, Shoji Ogawa, sees increased regional trade within East Asia as benefiting Georgia in the long term, given Japan’s strong economic ties with the state.

The economic integration of China, Japan and South Korea with the 10 member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand, is inevitable, Mr. Ogawa said.

But this economic bloc will be an “open association in this age of globalization” that will eventually promote increased economic activity with other such trading blocs. This could lead to Georgia’s increased trade with the region, he told GlobalAtlanta in an interview last week.

Mr. Ogawa assumed his post in Atlanta on March 6, replacing George Hisaeda, who returned to Tokyo.

Japan is currently negotiating bilateral free trade pacts with ASEAN, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand, he said. But a general summit is to be held in December in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, for all regional economies to discuss the formation of an East Asian Economic Community, which would be similar to the trading blocs of the European Union or Nafta, he added.

Georgia’s “very close business relationship” with Japan makes Atlanta a “prime post” for Japanese officials, Mr. Ogawa said, noting also that the consulate has strong relationships with the 332 Japanese companies in Georgia.

Japan currently ranks as Georgia’s second most important export market after Canada, and Japanese investment in Georgia is continually expanding, he said. The recent opening of three new automotive plants in Georgia – Honda Precision Parts of Georgia LLC in Tallapoosa, TD Automotive Compressor of Georgia LLC in Jefferson and Toyo Tire USA Corp. in Austell – will add some 1,000 new jobs for Georgians, he added.

The Japanese government has a new policy as of last December to attract foreign investment into Japan. Mr. Ogawa said that he is carefully examining this issue to come up with specific activities his office can do to spur interest among Georgians to invest in his country. He will be working with Jetro, the Japanese organization devoted to increasing investment in Japan that has an office in Atlanta.

In his three months in Atlanta, Mr. Ogawa said he has accepted as many invitations as possible to attend events in the southeastern states over which he has jurisdiction, including Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina and Virginia.

A reception was held recently at the Atlanta Botanical Garden to welcome Mr. Ogawa to Atlanta.

He spoke at the Japan America Society of Alabama’s annual dinner on May 5 about East Asian economic integration.

He has also spoken at several functions about his recent experience as head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s liaison office in Iraq, where he stayed for seven months with Japanese Self Defense Forces engaged in humanitarian and reconstruction activities.

“I volunteered to go to Iraq because I like adventure. I don’t mind risking my life for a good cause,” he said. “I am very proud of our Japanese troops who are providing needed drinking water, roads, hospitals, schools and humanitarian relief.”

Mr. Ogawa said his basic duties in Atlanta are to provide mediation services for Japanese residents and companies in the case of any problems with local authorities, help arrange for passports and work visas for Japanese here, promote understanding of Japan’s economic and foreign policies and contribute to the communities in his jurisdiction.

Prior to his post in Iraq, Mr. Ogawa served three times at the Japanese Mission to the United Nations in New York and at the Japanese embassies in Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Ireland and Denmark.

For trade questions, contact Yosuke Sakatani at the Japanese consulate at (404) 926-3003. Contact Mr. Ogawa at (404) 240-4300. or visit for more information.