Andy Burnham and Mayor Hideyuki Yokoyama stand side-by-side, shaking hands, flanked by other members of the Greater Manchester delegation
The Mayor Greater Manchester Economy

Greater Manchester strikes historic deal with Osaka on opening day of Japan mission

Greater Manchester has signed a landmark new partnership deal with Osaka on the first day of a mission to strengthen trade and cooperation links with Japan.

The agreement will see closer collaboration between Greater Manchester and Osaka to deliver on net zero targets, promote trade and investment, and boost innovation and education links between universities in both city-regions. Collaboration could be through increased economic exchanges, activities and events with the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and exchanges on policy areas of mutual interest.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Partnership of Friendship and Cooperation was signed by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and Mayor of Osaka Hideyuki Yokoyama at a special ceremony held today (Monday 4 December) in Osaka, Japan’s third largest city.

As part of the agreement, Greater Manchester and Osaka will work on a joint plan for EXPO 2025 – set to be the biggest international event of the decade – which will be hosted in Osaka between April and October 2025.

The signing took place on the first day of a Greater Manchester mission to Japan aimed at strengthening bilateral ties in diplomacy, trade and investment, net zero and innovation, and culture and sport.

Japan is one of Greater Manchester’s most important international partners. In 2022 Greater Manchester exported £99m worth of goods to Japan, and in 2021 service exports from the city-region to Japan were valued at £151m – placing the country in Greater Manchester’s top 10 service export markets. Japan is a major market for foreign direct investment (FDI) into the UK, consistently ranking among the top 15 source countries for FDI over the past three years. Examples of Japanese companies already in Greater Manchester include Nippon Electric Glass, Kansai Electric Power Company, Hitachi Astemo, Daikin and Shimadzu.

Greater Manchester is the first UK city-region to lead a Mayoral mission since the Government signed a Free Trade Agreement with Japan in 2020, projected to boost trade between the countries by £15.7 billion over the next 14 years. The visit is aimed at unlocking new opportunities for some of Greater Manchester’s key industries, including advanced manufacturing, financial and professional services, and the creative, digital, and tech sectors.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said:

“Greater Manchester’s links to Japan go back almost 200 years, when 19 students from Satsuma travelled to the North West to learn more about Britain’s industrial revolution. Their experiences at the Platt Brothers textile factories in Oldham helped spur their nation’s growth and prosperity, and Osaka’s own industrial transformation saw it hailed as the Manchester of the East.

“The partnership we’ve agreed today, as Greater Manchester embarks on a UK-first mission to Japan, is the culmination of that shared history and a sign of our shared vision for the future. It will unlock new opportunities for Greater Manchester and Osaka to benefit from trade and investment, create new links between our pioneering universities and research institutions, and boost crucial cooperation in net zero technologies to power sustainable growth.

“It will also give us a platform to work together towards EXPO 2025 in Osaka, placing Greater Manchester at the heart of the biggest international event of the decade.

“Our city-regions were united at the height of Britain’s industrial revolution – and this new partnership will help put us at the forefront of the next one.”

Mayor of Osaka, Hideyuki Yokoyama, said:

“We are truly delighted and honoured to have established this MoU, which covers a wide range of areas for cooperation.

“Efforts will be made to facilitate initiatives for zero carbon objectives, promote economic exchanges across various sectors, as well as support university-level collaborations moving forward.”

The Greater Manchester delegation, led by the Mayor and Greater Manchester Economy Lead and Leader of Manchester City Council, Cllr Bev Craig, is also joined by the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Japan, Greg Clark MP.

Heading up a group of universities, businesses, and sporting ambassadors from Greater Manchester, they will engage with Japanese political leaders, trade officials, and businesses, with the aim of broadening and intensifying diplomatic, trade, and cultural connections.

In addition to Mayor Yokoyama, the Mayor and Cllr Craig will meet with the Governor of Osaka and the Governor of Tokyo. In Osaka they will hold discussions with the Osaka Word EXPO25 Promotion Bureau and the EXPO25 Osaka Pavilion Association to discuss Greater Manchester-Osaka collaboration during EXPO25.

The delegation will meet with senior executives from Japanese companies and will also visit sites and projects specialising in renewable energy, including the Daikin Technology Innovation Centre in Osaka and the Panasonic site in Kusatsu-shi, a manufacturing site capable of running entirely on renewable energy.

In Tokyo, the Mayor and Cllr Craig will co-host an evening reception at the British Embassy with Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Japan, Julia Longbottom CMG, which will be attended by Japanese officials and local businesses. The Mayor will also hold two low carbon roundtables: with Deloitte Japan and representatives from local municipalities and industry; and with Keidanren, the Japan Business Federation.

Cllr Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council and Greater Manchester Lead for Economy, Business, and Inclusive Growth, said:

“Today’s historic agreement builds on solid foundations of shared history between Greater Manchester and Osaka. It’s also a statement of our intent to use this mission – the first of its kind from the UK – to deepen our links with Japan, for the benefit of our residents and our places.

“Greater Manchester boasts the largest city-region economy outside of London, and we’re forecast to outpace average UK growth as well. We’re the fastest-growing digital and tech hub in Europe, and the city of Manchester is brimming with leading global businesses, including in the financial and professional services sectors.

“Our economy’s growth – creating jobs and opportunities for residents – continues to be on an exciting trajectory. Forging new international relationships such as these links with Japan will help us take it to the next level.”

Greater Manchester has strong ties with Japan that date back to the 19th century, when a group of students from Satsuma travelled to Greater Manchester to learn about the revolutionary industrial technology that was being used in the local cotton industry. This first encounter helped boost Japan’s own industrial revolution, and resulted in Osaka becoming known as the Manchester of the East.

More recently, the city-region’s engagement with Osaka has included a three-year bilateral partnership on net zero, involving local government officials as well as industry and university partners from both sides. A key milestone of this relationship was the commitment from one of the world's largest air conditioning and heat pumps manufacturers, Japanese firm Daikin, investing in Greater Manchester to help retrofit 1,000 homes.  

Article Published: 04/12/2023 14:53 PM