NORTH-EAST firms are being encouraged to look east to export by the region’s largest business membership organisation as it leads a trade mission to Japan.

The North East Chamber of Commerce is offering ten companies the opportunity to join a regional delegation visiting Osaka, Japan’s second largest city, in February next year.

The visit, which is arranged in conjunction with the British Consulate in Osaka and UK Trade and Industry, provides North-East companies with the opportunity to take part in a series of meetings organised by the Osaka Chamber of Commerce (OCCI).

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Delegates will be introduced to potential customers and suppliers in Osaka, as well as attend a Consulate Reception with Japanese contacts and businesses and take part in an opinion-exchange programme with OCCI.

OCCI, which has a membership in excess of 30,000, will also outline business support services available to English companies trying to break into the Japanese market as well as provide an introductory service to some of the companies in its membership.

The mission is being overseen by NECC export services manager, Brian Dakers, who said: “The North East has long appreciated the importance of the Japanese market and this visit will hopefully help to open a few doors for firms looking to expand their overseas operations.

“With the Eurozone still struggling to shake off the after-effects of the economic downturn, it is vital that regional businesses explore the potential of foreign markets. NECC and our partners UKTI are working closely together to enable firms to make that initial contact with Japanese businesses that will hopefully lead to a long and mutually beneficial business relationship.”

A grant is available to eligible North East companies, of £700 per delegate, towards the cost of travel and accommodation.

Delegates also have the opportunity to invite two of their own contacts to the reception held at the British Consulate.

Exports from the UK to Japan exceed £8bn a year, with UK companies involved in industries such as manufacturing, consumer goods, services and high tech industries enjoying particular success.

Any interested businesses should contact Brian Dakers on 0191-374-0594