“When the UK leaves the EU, it is the strongest candidate for regional headquarters” says one Japanese manufacturer about Amsterdam, in the Nikkei Business magazine. Since the UK said it would leave the Single Market, Japanese companies have started their search for new regional HQ locations. Although Frankfurt and Zurich are also in the game, Amsterdam is seen as particularly strong.
There are many pluses: low taxes, and various regimes to suit different businesses. The logistics infrastructure is robust and it is easy to access the other main economies in Europe from there. Additionally, the lifestyle is congenial for Japanese people.
A priority for Japanese companies is the financial infrastructure. “If we are physically close to our financial services suppliers, then we can easily exchange information and opinions” says the manufacturer. Of Japan’s megabanks, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and Mizuho have regional coordinating operations in Amsterdam. There is a possibility that Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation will also move its European coordination activities to Amsterdam.
However, Japanese companies who are looking at moving their base to Amsterdam have one increasing headache, which is the uncertainty of the Dutch political situation. In a survey from 2016 (ie before the election where Wilders’ Party for Freedom did not do as well as feared) of the members of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands, political, economic and social environment came second as an increasing area of concern, after worries about employment (being able to hire or bring in Japanese employees, tax, pensions and ability to lay off workers). The third biggest area of concern was for expatriate visas and the process of obtaining ID cards. 4th was the legal and regulatory framework – obtaining permits, approvals, meeting standards and whether those standards are appropriate.
There is a concern that if the Netherlands cracks down on immigration, it will be difficult to hire a diverse labour force – one of the UK’s traditional strengths and attractions for Japanese companies.
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