Governors across the US Seek to Strengthen States’ Ties with Japan

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by Sarah Wang
Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts (center) began his inaugural trade mission to Asia in Tokyo, Japan addressing over 300 Japanese business representatives at the Midwest US-Japan Association conference. Image: Official Twitter of Governor Pete Ricketts.

While on a trade mission to Japan in early September, one of Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s stops was at a Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp assembly line . A month prior to that, Mitsubishi officially opened an engineering hub in Seattle, Washington with Seattle-based AeroTEC. The hub will serve as the home base for testing Mitsubishi’s newest forays into the commuter jet market, the first that Japan has undertaken since the 1960s. It joins Honda in opening new investments in aviation, which recently revealed its new private jet model that is being produced at a Burlington, North Carolina factory. Mitsubishi’s is the first engineering center for an aircraft Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) other than Boeing to be located in Washington. Fifty Japanese and 100 local American engineers will be hired to work at the hub. Mitsubishi will also test these planes at a testing facility in Moses Lake in central Washington in mid-2016 which will employ 200 workers.

Also in September, Michigan governor Rick Snyder traveled to Japan to attend the Midwest US-Japan Association conference in Tokyo. He pushed for more investment from Japan to Michigan, particularly in the auto industry. This form of partnership already has a strong foundation, with Toyota announcing in January that it will invest a further $141.7 million in Michigan to expand its business there, leading to the future creation of 250 jobs. Over the past 9 years (2003-14), the investment from 48 individual Japanese companies has created 6,911 jobs in Michigan. Snyder is well acquainted with Asia, having traveled there as governor several times in the past.

Jobs and investment were at the forefront of Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts’ inaugural trade mission to Asia, which included a stop in Japan. Also attending the Midwest US-Japan Association conference, Governor Ricketts sought to boost trade ties between Nebraska and its third largest foreign trading partner. Japan is also Nebraska’s largest foreign investor, investing over $4.4 billion in the state since 2010. Recently, Japan’s Kawasaki Motors, through its manufacturing team in Lincoln, Nebraska, where it has had a presence in for over 40 years, designed and built the new 7,000 series light rail cars currently being used by Washington, DC’s Metrorail.

Alaska Governor Bill Walker also recently traveled to Japan to discuss transportation of a different kind, namely the export of Alaska’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Japanese markets. The keynote speaker at the LNG Producer-Consumer Conference in Tokyo, Governor Walker emphasized the closeness of Alaska to Asia in terms of geographic proximity, a boon to transportation costs of LNG. Together with South Korea, Japan is one of the largest markets for LNG in the world and Alaska has been exporting LNG there for almost 50 years.

Sarah Wang is the Event Coordinator and a Project Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington.