Japan's Abe in the UAE to boost ties, with 27 companies in tow
Abe arrived in the oil-rich Gulf state late on Sunday for the first leg of his Middle East tour which will also take him to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
"Over the past five years since I last visited Abu Dhabi, our bilateral relations have made dramatic progress to a relationship that has been called a strategic relationship," Abe told a UAE-Japan business forum.
Top executives from Japan's leading business groups addressed the forum, focusing on diversification and innovation of the oil-reliant economy, and highlighting projects underway in UAE and future plans.
"On this visit, we are accompanied by 27 companies representing Japan with a delegation of top business leaders," Abe said.
The UAE is Japan's main trading partner in the Middle East, accounting for about a third of Tokyo's trade in the region.
Japan is also heavily reliant on oil from the Emirates, its second-largest oil supplier which accounted for almost a quarter of its crude oil needs last year, or 800,000 barrels per day, just after neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
Abe praised the renewal of oil concession agreements by Abu Dhabi to Japanese oil companies saying "bilateral relations in the field of energy have been solidified".
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Abe will also hold discussions with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince, as well as the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
In February, Abu Dhabi's state energy company ADNOC said it had awarded Japan's INPEX a 10 percent stake in an offshore oil concession, in a deal worth $600 million.
About 95 percent of UAE exports to Japan are oil and related products with the remaining five percent mainly aluminium.
About 60 percent of Japanese exports to UAE are motor vehicles, the figures show.
Abe said economic cooperation between the two countries will be further strengthened by the signing of an investment agreement later on Monday.
In the meantime, the Japanese Foreign Minister attended a rare four-party consultative unit comprised of Japan, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians, to discuss an initiative called the "corridor for peace and prosperity".
Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters the initiative - which aims to promote regional cooperation including through the creation of an agro-industrial park in the West Bank - was making progress.
He said the initiative is vital for economic development in the Palestinian territories and the Jordan valley.
Agencies contributed to this report.