Maryland-Japan Ties at Full Speed Thanks to Formalized Trade Relationship

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by Sarah Wang
Magnetic Levitation (maglev) trains are one step closer to becoming a reality in Maryland as Japan contributes $2 million to a feasibility study upon signing an Memorandum of Cooperation with Governor Larry Hogan, pictured here during his trip to Japan in 2015. Image: Flickr user Maryland GovPics

On August 24, 2016 Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) with Japanese ambassador to the United states H.E. Kenichiro Sasae to formalize the Maryland-Japan bilateral trade relationship. Maryland is the third state to sign such an agreement with the government of Japan, joining California and Washington.

This MOC grew out of Governor Hogan’s inaugural trade mission in May 2015 which centered on Asia and included a stop in Japan. During this leg of the trip, Governor Hogan and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which focused on increasing the amount of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from Calvert County, Maryland’s Cove Point and interest in building a magnetic levitation (maglev) train between Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC with the help of Japanese investment. Governor Hogan had the chance to ride Japan’s maglev train in Tokyo, whose speed of 314 miles per hour would make the distance between Baltimore and Washington surmountable in only 15 minutes.

Since Governor Hogan’s trip and the signing of the August 2016 MOC, Japanese firms have begun building ships which will be used to transport the LNG exports to Japan beginning in 2017 to provide a reliable source of energy for Japan for over 20 years. There are, however, concerns within Japan about the lack of diversification of sources of LNG and the time that it would take such imports to reach Japan from Cove Point.

Progress has also been made on the push for a maglev train. In November 2015, Governor Hogan’s request for $28.7 million to conduct a feasibility study on the Baltimore-DC maglev route was granted by the Federal Railroad Administration. Building upon this victory, Governor Hogan’s new trade agreement with Ambassador Sasae has pledged Japan to contribute an additional $2 million to the feasibility study as well.

The formalized Maryland-Japan trade agreement is built on a solid foundation. In 2014, Maryland exported $1.2 billion worth of goods and services to Japan, contributing to 8,522 local jobs. Japanese investment within Maryland is also high, with over 40 Japanese firms employing a total of 5,600 American workers.

Education is also a high priority between Japan and Maryland. A number of high schools in the state have exchange programs with Japanese high schools and the University of Maryland offers Japanese language, study abroad, and scholarship programs for American students to go to Japan and for Japanese students studying in Maryland. Maryland also has a sister state relationship with the Japanese prefecture of Kanagawa and a sister city relationship between Kawasaki in Kanagawa and Baltimore.

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