Stormont leaders to meet Taoiseach for talks during Japan trade mission

Robinson and McGuinness begin first visit to Tokyo in search of investment

Peter Robinson: “Visits such as these are extremely important to developing important trade and investment relationships.” Photograph: Paul Faith/PA

Peter Robinson: “Visits such as these are extremely important to developing important trade and investment relationships.” Photograph: Paul Faith/PA

Sun, Dec 1, 2013, 21:28


Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness begin a four-day trade mission to Japan this week – the first undertaken by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to the country.

The visit will include a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney at a reception hosted by Ambassador John Neary at the Irish Embassy. That meeting could prove significant as the Stormont leaders prepare for the return to Belfast next week of Richard Haass. The former US special envoy will begin what he has said will be an intensive phase of negotiations aimed at securing agreement on flags, parades and legacy issues related to the Troubles.

The leaders of the Stormont Executive have also scheduled a meeting with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. They are in Japan at the invitation of Mr Abe who visited Belfast immediately after the G8 summit in June which was hosted in Co Fermanagh by David Cameron. The trade mission will enable Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness to follow up on initiatives taken during an international investment conference in Belfast in October.

“Japan is an important and growing export market for Northern Ireland companies currently worth in excess of £32 million,” Mr Robinson said. “Japanese-owned business in Northern Ireland currently employ over 2,400 people and visits such as these are extremely important to developing important trade and investment relationships, and to show our commitment to supporting overseas companies to invest in Northern Ireland.

“After London, Belfast has attracted the most foreign direct investment compared with any other city in the UK, particularly in technology and financial services. We are determined to increase trade between the two countries and raise the profile of Northern Ireland in Japan.”

Mr McGuinness said the visit was under way at a time when businesses were enjoying unprecedented success in international markets.

“Our local companies in life sciences and technology are already actively selling their products in Japan,” he said. “Japan’s economy is the third largest in the world; bigger than the economies of Brazil, India, South Korea and Turkey combined, making it a significant market for trade and investment.

“It is also our largest source of foreign direct investment from Asia-Pacific. We have a number of Japanese companies already established in the north of Ireland,” he added. “This visit will give us the opportunity to meet with these companies and discuss ways in which we might be able to support them to grow their operations here.”