Gov. Pete Ricketts sees great opportunity in Japan, especially in light of the recent trade mission there.
Ricketts calls the Japanese trip the best trade mission to date, giving credit to the state departments of agriculture and economic development for planning a trip which maximized the delegation’s time in the country.
One major agreement will provide Nebraska pork to 170 restaurants in Japan.
Ricketts participated in a signing ceremony at Sagami Restaurant in Tokyo, Japan on behalf of Nebraska’s pork producers in which representatives from Smithfield Foods and Sagami signed a letter of intent to sell the restaurant chain pork from its processing plant in Crete.
While beef might be Nebraska’s calling card, pork is growing in importance.
“Pork exports were up about 46% so far in the first few months of this year and, in general, about half of our pork gets exported to Japan,” Ricketts tells Nebraska Radio Network. “So, we’ve got a marketplace that recognizes our high quality and is demanding more.”
Hopes to expand beef exports to Japan depend heavily on the trade relationship between the United States and Japan. American beef exports have risen enough to trigger a higher tariff, putting the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage with Australia. Ricketts says he urged Japanese officials to enter bilateral trade talks with the U.S. instead of holding out hope that the Trump Administration will relent in its opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Trade extends beyond Nebraska agriculture. Since 2010, Japanese companies have invested $4.4 billion in Nebraska. About 35 Japanese-owned companies, including energy and manufacturing firms, employ 9,400 Nebraskans.
Ricketts toured Kawaski’s Hyogo Works Heavy Industries plant and the Shizuki Electric Company in Nishinomiya.
During the trip, the University of Nebraska-Kearney signed an agreement with Toyo University for faculty and student exchanges, joint research projects as well as educational programs. UNK has the largest enrollment of Japanese students in Nebraska.
Nebraska tourism officials even pitched the state as a destination for Japanese tourists.
The trade mission lasted six days in Japan, including stops in Tokyo, Shizuoka, and the Kansai region. It began by attending the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference, which will convene in Omaha on its 50th anniversary next year. Ricketts calls it an outstanding opportunity to show off our state.
“We’ll probably have anywhere between 200 and 300 Japanese business executives and we’re going to work very hard to make that even bigger; that we’re really going to leverage the relationships and the connections we made on this trip to encourage those Japanese business executives to come to Nebraska,” Ricketts says.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]