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Economy Minister Diane Dodds said: “I welcome the signing of the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement today. Japan is an important trading partner for Northern Ireland, we have a strong record of attracting Japanese investors and penetrating the Japanese market with our high-quality manufactured products and services.

“Japan is a vast and lucrative market and I believe we can benefit further from that untapped potential.

“In challenging times like these, trade and investment will be vital to Northern Ireland’s economic recovery and future prosperity. Northern Ireland has strong international links and I want to ensure we are well placed and primed to take advantage of the opportunities emerging from the United Kingdom’s independent trade policy.

“I am determined to support our economy through the immediate challenges of Covid-19 and build for the future, this is a positive step forward in that regard.”

Ivy McFarlane, Business Development Director with Belfast-based AquaQ Analytics, also commented on the announcement. AquaQ Analytics specialises in high speed, time sensitive database solutions.

She said: “Since breaking into the Japanese market with our first sale in 2016, our business has grown rapidly year on year. Invest NI’s Asia Pacific team has been a great support to us on the ground, helping us to build relationships that have been key to our in-market success, and we are continuing to win new business this year.

“Our hope is that the UK-Japan Agreement will help our business to grow even further and we look forward to exploring the new opportunities that it brings.”