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 in Japan

Joe Manning, Managing Director at MIDAS, Greater Manchester's Inward Investment Agency said: 

“The agreement signed today between Osaka and Greater Manchester marks a formal recognition of our commitment to a long-lasting partnership, that will support development in mutual areas of interest, particularly the net zero agenda.  

Japan is one of our key markets for foreign inward investment. We’ve seen many exciting, future-focused businesses from Japan invest in Greater Manchester and look forward to further evolving and developing our city-to-city links, to bring more opportunities and innovation."