Osamu Watanabe was born in Kagawa Prefecture in 1940. After graduating from the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Law in 1964, he joined the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), where he served several Directorship posts, including the Executive Director of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) in New York from 1978 to 1980. Watanabe also served as Executive Assistant to the Prime Minister (Mr. Noboru Takeshita) from 1987 to 1989. He was also Director-General of International Trade Administration Bureau, and Machinery and Information Bureau, Industrial Policy Bureau, before becoming Administrative Vice-Minister in 1997.
Watanabe retired from the ministry in 1999 and became Chairman and CEO of JETRO in 2002. He worked to promote mutual trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world until 2007 and contributed to the establishment of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA).
In 2007, he joined the JAPEX as Executive Vice President and was named President CEO in 2008, Chairman in 2016. Since 2016, he has served as Chairman of the Japan Petroleum Development Association.
Watanabe also served on Prime Minister Koizumi’s “Task Force on Foreign Relations” in 2001-2006, and Prime Minister Fukuda’s “Foreign Policy Study Group” in 2007-2008.