A senior member of APEC's business arm warned yesterday that the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in China should be regarded as a lesson to businessmen not to concentrate their investments in any one country.
"Concentration in one country or one area ... is always something to be considered carefully," said Tasuku Takagaki, former president of the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi and a senior member of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).
"SARS has perhaps given some warning on that point," Takagaki told a joint news conference with other Japanese representatives of ABAC ahead of a four-day meeting of the business advisory council in Tokyo starting next Tuesday.
In the wake of the SARS outbreak, concern has been raised over the outlook for the Chinese economy, which is home to the production bases of major manufacturing companies from Japan and other countries.
SARS is expected to be high on the agenda for the ABAC meeting, which will draw business leaders from the 21 APEC members.
"We have not had any concrete plan at the moment but we have a plan to talk about the effect of SARS at the ABAC meeting," said Nobuhiko Kawamoto, former president of Honda Motor and another senior member of ABAC.
"We will propose that [concrete plan], as a result of discussions, to the APEC leaders," said Kawamoto, who is now a Honda advisor and non-executive director.
Kawamoto suggested the impact of SARS on Japanese investment in China may be limited, however, as many Japanese firms have taken a cautious approach when investing in the country.
"Major Japanese businessmen investing in China have been making step-by-step investments until now," Kawamoto said. "So, in that sense, regardless of SARS, the attitude will not change."
Kawamoto also said it is "too early to say" anything about the possibility that Chinese authorities could restrict business activities as they tackle the SARS outbreak.
The ABAC, the private sector arm of APEC, submits an annual report to APEC leaders on potential measures to improve business and investment in the region.
"There are a number of serious issues confronting the regional economy at the moment," ABAC chairman Viphandh Roengpithya, said in a statement released on Monday.
"It is crucial that the business community plays a role in maintaining our regional economic health," Viphandh said.
APEC trade ministers will meet June 2 to 3 in the Thai province of Khon Kaen.