This is the first time Sharjah has participated in the business forum, which ends on April 26.

 

"We are competing against Dubai and the other emirates that are represented here, but we believe that we will be able to compete well in the two areas that we hope to build on, trade and tourism," he said.

 

Al Qasimi is also seeking to accelerate the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the emirate.
 

He said: "We are particularly keen to capture business executives and attract major companies and industry leaders and I believe we have the infrastructure and facilities to do that."

 

Business growth

 

The last five years have seen a 300 per cent growth in business between the two nations, with total trade rising to $277m.

 

Sharjah officials at the forum have been keen to emphasise the "magnetic attraction to business" that the Sharjah Free Zones have proven to be.

 

Currently, Sharjah, the third-largest emirate in the UAE, maintains 19 specialised industrial areas, and is considered the industrial heart of the country, earning 48% of the nation's total industrial income.
 

Mohamed Al Noman, director-general of the Sharjah commerce and tourism development authority, told Al Jazeera: "Through a powerful network, state-of-the-art technology and exclusive knowledge, the UAE-Japan forum provides participants with the resources needed to pursue and crate business opportunities."

 

 Al Qasimi said one of the largest areas of co-operation between Japan and Sharjah at present is the oil industry, with Japan's Itochu Corp and Tokyo Boeki Ltd already major investors in the region.

 

He said: "Sharjah has the prefect, ripe business environment to attract investments."
 

Family tourism

 

With some 1,500 Japanese nationals living in the UAE, Sharjah is aiming to announce itself as a destination for more holiday-makers.
 

Al Qasimi said: "We like to promote ourselves as a family tourist destination that is the safest in the entire region.

 

Sharjah is the most diversified of the emirates - and we have our unique identity that focuses on our heritage and culture.
 

He said: "We do not want to promote ourselves like Dubai has, but to be more focused on families rather than nightlife.

 

"We are considered the cultural capital of the emirates and we would like to build on that image."
 

Joint forum

 

The UAE-Japan Business Forum is supported by the Japanese government and the Japan External Trade Organisation, as well as the Federation of UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the UAE embassy in Tokyo.

 

Trade between Japan and the Gulf Co-operation Council has been steadily increasing in recent years, jumping up 33% in 2006.

 

The UAE imports the lion’s share of Japanese products: in 2005, the UAE imported 13% of all Japanese exports.

 

Sharjah joined the UAE in December 1971.