Landmark deal signed between Greater Manchester and major Japanese port city

Greater Manchester-Osaka MoU deal

A trade and civic mission by Greater Manchester to Japan has achieved a landmark deal on its first day.

The two parties have agreed a new partnership deal with the port city of 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.

A 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 yesterday (December 4) 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.

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 £15.7bn 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.”

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.

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, 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 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.”