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Trade Delegation from Osaka-Kansai region makes second visit to the Thames Valley

Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce Group and its Japan Desk, managed by Masako Eguchi-Bacon, welcomed a Japanese delegation from Osaka/ Kansai last week, visiting our region for the second time. At the start of a full day’s programme, the group attended a market briefing at the Copthorne Hotel, Slough-Windsor, supported by BP Collins LLP.  Companies operating in the hydrogen fuel cell sector (HFC) in Japan, the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), METI-Kansai, the Japanese Government and Thames Valley Chamber members were represented.

Following welcomes from Paul Britton, Chief Executive and Anne White, Head of International Trade, Thames Valley Chamber, delegates were addressed by Vice-Chairman, OCCI & Chairman/CEO, Hitachi-Zosen, Mr Minoru Furukawa.  Paul said: “Following the four-year collaboration between our two regions, we are delighted to welcome such a strong group to the Thames Valley and will be sending our own delegation to Osaka later this year. Mr Furukawa, also Head of the Trade Mission, gave his sincere appreciation for those attending and thanked David Smellie, BP Collins LLP for his warm support since 2014.

OCCI is the largest Chamber based in West Japan and the region hosts both large enterprises and SMEs in various industries.  OCCI focuses on regional development, fostering SMEs through business exchange and promoting cutting edge technology, particularly HFC.  The companies represented are strong, motivated, skilled and were keen to network and present their initiatives to Thames Valley businesses.

David Taylor, International Trade Advisor at the Department of International Trade (DIT) explained the changes within Government due to Brexit and the new trade/ investment policy to promote UK businesses globally. The DIT intends to work even more closely with Chambers in the UK and overseas markets to negotiate free trade and market access deals in non-EU countries.  Japan’s position as the third highest GDP nation, after the USA and China, makes it a highly important market (with the Kansai region representing 16% of the total GDP). There are strong political, trade and social ties, IP protection and a cutting edge business culture, hunger for new trends and technologies such as clean energy.  Japan wants good products, technology and services. UK companies are well positioned to meet requirements.  UK exports to Japan last year were £9.4bn. There has been co-operation on nuclear energy and even the Brewdog Brewery has a bar in Tokyo!

The delegates were also informed that the conveyor belts used in Japanese restaurants was developed in Osaka as was the Cup Noodle. There is a high number of research institutions and 153 universities with much collaboration between education and government. The strategy is to have 40,000 HFC vehicles, 160 hydrogen stations and by 2040 to achieve full C02 free vehicles.

The region will be on the map in 2019 as Japan hosts the Rugby World Cup with some matches taking place in Osaka. Mr Susumu Saito, Director, International Division, OCCI described the organisation’s work in providing assistance to overseas companies and reminded delegates that business operating in new energy and life sciences sectors are eligible for tax incentives.  There are many synergies between the Thames Valley and Osaka and it is a good base for a relationship.

Five companies from Osaka then presented their companies. They were Kansai Airport; Hitachi Zosen (energy from waste plants); Iwatani Corporation (opened the first hydrogen fuelling station in Japan and HFC fork lift at the airport); Osaka Gas (supplying to 7.1m customers); Takaishi Industry (o-ring materials for ensuring no leaks on hose pipes for vehicles).

Following visits to Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells and the fuel cell systems at the hydrogen refuelling station at the Honda plant, the delegation gathered for dinner at the Swindon Marriott.  Before the dinner, a joint statement was signed by Paul Britton and Minoru Furukawa to secure and further the relationship.

Both parties highly value the projects that have been jointly undertaken to promote business exchanges. The two agreed to work together to implement projects deemed necessary to revitalise the Japanese and British economies.  It was also agreed to support businesses and technologies where both regions have strengths such as HFC, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things. OCCI expressed deep gratitude to Thames Valley Chamber for its decision to embed the Japan Desk within the organisation, which is believed to be imperative to success.

Mr Furukawa cited the strong collaboration, deep trust and mutual exchange between the two regions. Mr Hiroshi Matsuura, Minister, Embassy of Japan in the UK commended the progress made in the relationship, leading to today’s events.

The delegates were also addressed by Councillor David Renard, Leader, Swindon Borough Council and Kevin Fothergill, Swindon Hydrogen Hub Chairman.


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Sarah Irving

Head of Marketing & Communications

Direct dial: 01753 870500

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