By Gov. Pete Ricketts
Late last week, I returned from my inaugural trade mission to Asia where I visited Japan and China, Nebraska’s two largest trade partners in Asia. During our travels, the trade delegation met with business executives, potential investors, and public-sector leaders about how we continue to build on our existing relationships with these two countries. Growing overseas trade relationships is one of the best ways we can continue to grow our state. With over 95 percent of the global population living outside the United States, it is important to take our message about Nebraska to potential trade partners, investors, and consumers around the world.
In Tokyo, I joined several governors in addressing the annual conference of the U.S. Midwest-Japan Association, an organization dedicated to building business relationships between the Midwestern American states and Japanese prefectures. The conference was a great opportunity to highlight Nebraska’s pro-business climate, hardworking people, and other values Nebraska and Japan share that make our state such an attractive investment for many Japanese companies.
While in Japan, members of the trade delegation also met with a wide variety of existing and potential investors. I visited with some of the 30 Japanese companies that invest in Nebraska including Meikyo Denki, Daitron, Marubeni, Kawasaki, Kewpie, and Itochu. These companies have helped make Japan our state’s largest direct foreign investor. These kinds of investments are not only important to Nebraska, but also to Japan’s relationship with the U.S. During his visit to America, Japan’s prime minister highlighted Kawasaki’s plant located in Lincoln to President Obama as an example of the good relationship our countries continue to enjoy.
My visit to Tokyo comes on the heels of Lt. Governor Foley’s trip with a delegation of Nebraska ag leaders to Japan. Japan imports about 20 percent of Nebraska’s beef and 50 percent of our pork. During my meetings, one of the companies we visited with expressed interest in purchasing even more Nebraska beef.
On the second leg of the trade mission in Beijing, I met with top officials from the ministries of Commerce, Agriculture, and Foreign Affairs as well as the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. In these introductory meetings, I laid out our priorities for moving our relationship forward with China. One of the biggest hurdles to expanding trade with China is their continued ban on importing beef. The beef industry is our state’s single largest industry, and China is our state’s fastest-growing trade partner. Opening the Chinese market to Nebraska’s high quality, safe beef products would be mutually beneficial to both parties.
During these meetings, the trade mission delegation shared details about a project that Nebraska companies are working on in Shaanxi Province, in northwestern China, and the Yangling Agricultural Hi-Tech Industries Demonstration Zone. This effort will establish a marketing platform and training center for agricultural machinery manufacturers. The delegation also highlighted the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s ongoing cooperation with Chinese universities through their medical student exchange programs.
After two successful trade missions this year, my administration remains committed to leading two missions each year. As I visit with private and public sector leaders around the globe, those who are familiar with Nebraska tell me that they see Nebraska as a great place to invest. Others who are just getting to know our state are eager to learn more. If you have ideas of your own on how we can continue to promote Nebraska around the world, I would like to hear from you. Please take some time to contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-471-2244.