Minister Alexander, Lord Mayor, Lord Lieutenant, Mr Hirai, Mr Takahashi, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, let me express my gratitude to the representatives of Nippon Gohsei for inviting me to join you at this ceremony. It is a great pleasure to be here today to celebrate the opening of this plant in Hull. Yorkshire and Humber is one of the UK ' s most economically dynamic areas and hosts more than 1,000 foreign businesses. In fact, a key attraction of the region is the fact that the presence of so many highly advanced manufacturing industries lends itself to active co-operation among them.
Indeed, I understand that this new plant will have a close operational relationship with BP Chemicals, to the benefit of both companies. This collaboration epitomises the close co-operation between Japan and the United Kingdom in the fields of science and technology, the importance of which Prime Ministers Junnichiro Koizumi and Tony Blair emphasised in their joint declaration of July last year. Another field in which both countries are working together is the environment. I have heard that the material which this plant is to produce has received much attention as an environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional food-packaging materials. It is heart-warming to observe Japan and the UK applying their advanced technology towards the progress of mankind.
Speaking of the environment together with science and technology, they are also the underlying themes of the 2005 Aichi Expo, which starts next March in Japan. It is a forum where we can get together and explore new ideas about how human beings can coexist with the earth. The UK is one of more than 120 participating countries, and I believe it will make a substantial contribution to the success of this venture.
Among the UK ' s most appealing features are its open and much deregulated economy as well as its enthusiasm for international co-operation in a variety of different arenas. It is perhaps no surprise that the UK remains the top European destination for Japanese direct investment. In the manufacturing sector, there are more than 1,000 Japanese firms operating in the UK. I firmly believe that the operations of this Nippon Gohsei plant will serve to deepen the friendship between our two countries and be a source of mutual prosperity.
May I congratulate everyone involved in the construction of this new chemical plant and all related activities for their valuable efforts. I wish this project every success.