The earthquake in Japan is likely to hurt some of Israel's largest exporters, including cutting tools manufacturer Iscar, Teva Pharmaceuticals, optics company Orbotech, Dead Sea Industries, irrigation company Netafim, Haifa Chemicals and software company Comverse.
In 2010, a total of 540 Israeli companies exported more than $10,000 in goods and services to Japan. Israeli trade with Japan totaled $2.4 billion, a 19% increase over 2009. In 2008, on the brink of the global financial crisis, it was $3.11 billion.
Executives at the major exporters said the quake and tsunami damage would probably force Japan to reorder its priorities. This would make 2011 a hard year for them, they said, and sales could decrease. They predicted that some companies' sales would rebound in 2012 due to the large investment in infrastructure Japan is likely to need.
The CEO of the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute, Avi Hefetz, has canceled a trip by an infrastructure and energy delegation that was to have flown to Japan tomorrow to meet with local industrialists. The decision was made in conjunction with the economic attache in Tokyo and the head of foreign trade at the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry.
Israel exported $656 million in goods to Japan in 2010, and imported $1.8 billion.
Iscar reported that its Japanese factory had been damaged significantly in the quake, but that none of its more than 1,000 employees were injured. The company sent a delegation to Japan this weekend to examine ways to help employees and address the damage.
"There's no access to the area for now, and only later will we be able to see what was damaged," said chairman Eitan Wertheimer. "All of Japan has been hurt, including our customers. It will take them time to recover."
Another Israeli company, Magna, built the defense system for the Japanese nuclear reactor that was damaged by the earthquake and the tsunami.
"Japanese reactors have defense systems," said CEO Haim Sibony. "We installed one on the first reactor, and we're about to install one on another. Only last week a Japanese delegation came to evaluate the installation, its operation and its maintenance," he said.
The company said it was unable to establish contact with two Japanese employees who had been in the disaster area.
Sibony said his company's system would take constant photographs of the area around the reactor. If the system hasn't been damaged, the photographs will shed light on what happened, he said. However, that's unlikely, since it's near the shore.
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