Ok, they don't like our cars, but the Japanese are buying other things American, from clothing to crafts. Aiding the cause is the Japan External Trade Organization -- better known as JETRO -- which, in an effort to soothe its trading partners, spends a small fortune promoting imports.
JETRO trade advisers stationed in seven U.S. cities from Houston to San Francisco offer companies free product feedback, marketing tips, and contacts. Paul Ruine and Cheryl Stuart-Ruine, co-owners of Ruine Designs, a small furniture and lighting company, say their JETRO rep escorts buyers to their Manhattan showroom. "He knows our products almost as well as we do," says Paul Ruine.
JETRO's most far-reaching service is its invitation-only 10-day Export to Japan Study Program, in Tokyo. Recently, Bob Fischer attended it, his expenses paid by JETRO. Fischer, the president of Optics 1, a $2.1-million optical-engineering firm in Westlake Village, Calif., met a mix of entrepreneurs. "One fellow owned a furniture store in Toronto," he says. "Another guy sold hot sauces from Hawaii." The program included lectures by local businesspeople, language lessons, and meetings with potential customers. "It was fabulously organized," says Fischer.* * *