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Office of Governor Pete Ricketts

Growing Nebraska through Trade with Japan

By Governor Pete Ricketts

September 11, 2017


Official photo here.


Nebraska and Japan share a special relationship.  Japan is not only our state’s largest direct foreign investor, but also our third largest export market.  This week I will be leaving Nebraska and traveling to Japan on a mission to expand trade.  This mission will be a great opportunity to expand trade opportunities with Japan and to make the case for additional investments to grow our state. 

There’s a reason why Nebraska’s relationship with Japan has flourished over the years.  We share many things in common.  Our people are hardworking and loyal.  We both invest deeply in our families.  And we both enjoy strong communities that pull together and invest in our people. 

These shared values have helped make Japan one of Nebraska’s top export markets.  Nebraska’s agriculture industry, our largest sector, is a prime example of how trade with Japan is growing our state.  Japan is our largest export market for beef, pork, wheat, and eggs, as well as our second largest export market for corn.  In total, we exports nearly $800 million worth of goods to Japan each year. This all adds up to make Japan our third largest export market, behind Mexico and Canada.

Not only is Japan one of our largest export markets, they’re also growing. Already in 2017 we’ve seen a 26 percent increase in beef exports and a 46 percent increase in pork exports over the year before.  It’s clear the Japanese people value our quality products and are willing to invest in our great state.

Thanks to the great relationships that we’ve built with Japan, they’ve become our largest source of direct foreign investment.  That investment has borne fruit in companies like Tenaska, an Omaha-based firm which employs nearly 300 Nebraskans.  Tenaska has been able to form partnerships with Japanese companies like Mitsubishi and Itochu.  Tenaska is one of over 120 companies across Nebraska which actively do business with Japan.  Tenaska and other companies are taking advantage of this week’s mission to identify opportunities for new partnerships and investments.  

Joining me on the trade mission will be Department of Economic Development (DED) Director Courtney Dentlinger, Department of Agriculture (DOA) Assistant Director Mat Habrock, as well as members of Nebraska’s business and agricultural sectors.

While in Japan, I will participate in the Midwest US-Japan Association (MWJA) Conference.  Nine Midwestern states are involved in the MWJA, which provides opportunities for our ag and business leaders to grow their knowledge about bilateral trade.  The MWJA has been very beneficial for Nebraska’s exporters, and we’re pleased to have the opportunity to host next year’s 50th anniversary conference in Omaha in 2018!

This week, I will also be visiting the Japan Export Trade Research Organization (JETRO).  JETRO is Japan’s independent government agency established to facilitate the country’s efforts in export promotion.  There I will be highlighting additional opportunities to strengthen Nebraska’s relationship with Japan.  These meetings will connect Nebraska’s companies with opportunities to enter and expand in the Japanese market.

On Thursday, the trade delegation and I will visit Shizuoka to promote investment opportunities here in Nebraska.  We will also be visiting Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto where we will visit several companies with operations here in Nebraska to thank them for their investments which are growing our state.

Nebraska enjoys cultural and educational benefits through our sister city program and partnerships.  Currently Nebraska has two sister cities in Japan, Shizuoka, which has been partnered with Omaha for over 50 years, and Ozu, which has been partnered with Hastings for over 20 years.  The sister cities facilitate exchanges for teachers, students, hospitals, and even animals between their zoos.  These strong connections have solidified the special relationship between Nebraska and Japan, which is one reason why there have been nine Governor’s Office-led trade missions there since 1991.

Trade missions have been a key part of my grow Nebraska agenda.  In addition to this mission to Japan, I also led a mission to Canada to thank our largest trading partner earlier this summer.  Throughout my administration, I will continue to pursue new opportunities to grow our state through new trade opportunities and partnerships.  If you have any experiences in Japan, either personal or business-related, I would love to hear about them!  Feel free to call my office at 402-471-2244 or email me at to share your experiences or any other matter on your mind.  We look forward to hearing from you!