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Irish PM leads trade mission to Japan

Irish PM leads trade mission to Japan

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen is leading his country's biggest ever trade mission to Japan in an effort to boost investment from the world's second-largest economy, an official said Wednesday.
Cowen's trip to Japan comes as Ireland grapples with a surging unemployment rate, which jumped to a decade high of 7.8 percent in November. The Irish government has also forecast its economy will shrink by at least 4 percent this year.
The prime minister held a seminar with Japanese business leaders in Tokyo on Wednesday and is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minster Taro Aso Thursday and meet Emperor Akihito on Friday, said Irish embassy press officer Michael Smith.
Representatives of 70 Irish companies and business organizations, Trade and Commerce Minister John McGuinness and Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith are accompanying Cowen on the six-day trip.
Japan's imports from Ireland totaled 393.3 billion yen ($4.4 billion) in 2008, marking an 18-percent dropped from a year earlier, according to the Japanese Finance Ministry.
In 2007, the most recent year for export figures to Ireland, Japan's exports stood at 188 billion yen ($2 billion), down 1.3 percent from a year earlier.
Cowen hopes to boost bilateral cooperation in research and development for the high-tech and cutting-edge pharmaceutical areas, Smith said.