By Governor Pete Ricketts
September 10, 2018
Official photo here.
For several decades now, Japan has been a key partner in helping the United States achieve our strategic goals in the areas of trade and national security in the Asia-Pacific region. As a part of building the relationship between America and Japan, we have established a number of associations to help strengthen ties between the countries. This week, Nebraska has the honor of hosting the 50th annual conference of the Midwest-U.S. Japan Association (MWJA). We are an association of 10 American states committed to growing economic opportunities between Japan and the American Midwest. About 400 leaders in business and government attend the conference along with about a dozen governors from both countries and trade officials from the Trump administration.
For Nebraska, our trade relationship with Japan is one of our most important. Japan is Nebraska’s fourth largest export market and largest direct international investor. Because of this, I have led two trade missions to Japan in the last three years. As we continue to grow our relationship with Japan, our work through the association is focused on four things: expanding exports, attracting new direct investment, creating new partnerships, and encouraging a new bilateral trade agreement.
International markets are critical to creating opportunities for Nebraska’s farm and ranch families. Japan is Nebraska’s largest export market for beef, pork, and eggs and, overall, it is our third largest ag export market. From 2016 to 2017, Nebraska saw a 26 percent increase in our beef exports to Japan and a 46 percent increase in pork exports. Thanks to the efforts of many Nebraskans over the years, trade missions continue to create new opportunities for our farm and ranch families.
Major Japanese companies like Kawasaki, Marubeni (known as Gavilon in Nebraska), American Shizuki Corporation, and Itochu have invested in Nebraska over the years. About 35 Japanese-owned companies employ 9,400 Nebraskans in communities throughout the state including David City, Lincoln, Norfolk, Omaha, and Ogallala among others. When we foster more investment by businesses from Japan, we help Nebraskans like Eric Jones. Eric’s been a long-time production worker for Kawasaki, and he’s a great teammate who gets paid a good wage to support his wife and three children. When Kawasaki invested in an aerospace division in Lincoln, he volunteered and he earned a spot as a supervisor. The company flew him to Japan for three months of training. When we met earlier this year, Eric told me how great Kawasaki has been for Lincoln. Besides the good-paying jobs and investment, Kawasaki supports local charities and uses local vendors.
Over the years, we have also established a number of partnerships to strengthen ties between the two countries. Omaha and Shizuoka in Japan have been sister cities for over 50 years, and have participated in a number of cultural exchanges through that partnership. Hastings also has a sister-city relationship with Ozu in Japan. In July, I hosted Governor Toshizo Ido of Hyogo Prefecture at the State Capitol in Lincoln. Hyogo Prefecture is home to the city of Kobe, where Kawasaki is headquartered in Japan. Like Nebraska, Hyogo has agriculture and manufacturing as two of its top industries. During the visit, Governor Ido and I signed a memorandum of understanding to help strengthen ties between our two states.
The last, but perhaps the most important, focus we have right now is on supporting the Trump administration’s efforts to get a new bilateral deal with Japan. Previously, President Obama had tried to pursue a multilateral trade agreement with Japan and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. President Trump has decided to pursue bilateral agreements with these countries, because he believes it will yield fairer trade deals for the American worker, and we support his efforts to get a new deal done quickly. In the last year, Japan opened their market to American ethanol, which is great for Nebraska, and we would like to see additional trade barriers and tariffs come down so we can trade more freely.
It has been a big honor this week to showcase Nebraska as a great place to do business for Japan as well as to feature our quality ag products, like Nebraska beef, for our Japanese friends. Whether it is Japan or Canada, or the European Union and Mexico, my administration will continue to work to expand our trade relationships to create more job opportunities here in Nebraska and markets abroad. If you see an opportunity in trade that can grow Nebraska, I hope you will reach out to my office by emailing email@example.com or by calling 402-471-2244.