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Japanese come shopping

Civils 2000

More than 150 Japanese buyers will attend Civils 2000 and Interbuild as part of an inward trade mission organised by the Government agency British Trade International.

Civils/Interbuild marketing projects manager Julie Mitchell said inward missions from other nations 'are in the pipeline'. But the Japanese mission will be 'by far the largest group of any one country, said BTI design and construction export promoter Ron Marsh. Previous missions have attracted mainly 'medium sized' firms, representing a cross-section of the construction industry. 'But even these are large by UK standards,' Marsh added.

Marsh said that the Japanese construction market is starting to emerge from recession. 'They've come down from a ludicrous high. But even at its lowest point earlier this year, Japan was still spending 1.6 times per head of population what we are - and we think we're in boom times. Japan's still on a high, but it's now sustainable.'

Japan's financial index is up more than 30% on last year, and Marsh said the number of starts in housing and commercial building have risen. Leisure is a growth sector. The government has also been investing heavily in public infrastructure.

The country is waking up to the possibilities of brownfield development and faces the mammoth task of rehabilitating some of its most polluted, but potentially most valuable, urban sites. 'Land is at a premium, and sites like the waterfront at Kobe are highly desirable. But the major industrial cities have mammoth pollution problems,' said Marsh. 'There is room for huge growth in environmental clean-up.'

A new legal framework introducing private finance initiative procurement in Japan will help sustain activity in the civils sector, Marsh predicted. 'We will probably start seeing the benefits of the new PFI act next year,' he commented.

According to Marsh Japan stages no construction exhibitions that can compare with the combined size and scope of Civils 2000 and Interbuild. A business centre is to be set up at the NEC providing a forum for dialogue between exhibitors and Japanese buyers. Mission organisers are aiming to find out which markets the visitors are interested in so they can be directed to the relevant stands. 'Where we know companies are likely to be targeted we'll let them know in advance,' said Marsh.

The visitors from the Japanese delegation are to be welcomed at a reception on the exhibition's second night.

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