TOKYO -- Japan is sending a high-level trade official to Iran for the first time in 14 years now that economic sanctions are being lifted, the economy ministry said Friday.
Daishiro Yamagiwa, a state minister for trade, will meet with Iranian economic ministers in a bid to strengthen ties between the two countries on energy and automobiles. Also attending the trip sponsored by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will be executives from 21 companies hoping to grab a foothold in the nation.
Yamagiwa will visit Tehran from Saturday until Monday and talk with Iranian officials including Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh, Iran's minister of industry, mining and trade. The last high-level Japanese economic official to visit Iran was Takeo Hiranuma, then the economy minister, back in 2001.
Japan imported 10% of its oil from Iran in 2000, but sanctions have cut that figure to roughly 5% in fiscal 2014. Japan hopes renewed talks will lead to increased oil imports. European countries also have sent delegations to Iran since that nation signed the nuclear agreement in mid-July. Iran boasts the world's fourth-largest proven oil reserves, and with a population of 78 million is a leading Middle East market.