Robinson geared up for Japan push
Peter Robinson has vowed to raise the profile of Northern Ireland in Japan.
The First Minister and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness are leading their first business mission to the country.
The four-day visit follows an invitation extended to the ministers during the G8 summit by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.
Mr Robinson said the visit will enable them to follow up on some initial discussions with potential new investors that began at the investment conference in October.
"Japan is an important and growing export market for Northern Ireland companies currently worth in excess of £32 million," he 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."
On Tuesday they will meet Irish Ambassador John Neary and attend an embassy reception with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who is also in the Far East with Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to boost trade links, particularly in the agri-food sector.
A meeting is scheduled later in the week with Mr Abe.
Mr McGuinness said the visit is under way at a time when businesses are 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.
"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."