In February, representatives from the University of Nebraska and the Nebraska Department of Economic Development led a delegation to Japan, spending a week visiting Tokyo and Kobe. The delegation met with government officials and industry representatives to promote trade relations. This included meetings with Japanese companies like Kewpie and S Foods, which already operate subsidiaries in Nebraska. The group also met with faculty from Kobe University and the University of Hyogo to enhance academic ties, with a particular focus on collaboration in the field of agriculture.
The trip highlights the strengthening of Nebraska-Japan ties, and follows up on Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts’ numerous visits to Japan. Governor Ricketts most recently visited Tokyo last September for the 49th Annual Joint Meeting of the Midwest US-Japan Association, which promotes trade and investment between Japan and the American Midwest. The 2018 conference will be held in Nebraska, offering further opportunities to build trade ties.
Japan and Nebraska already maintain strong trade and education ties. Japan is Nebraska’s second largest export destination. In 2016, Nebraska exported $4.7 billion in goods to Japan, which supported more than 11,000 American jobs. Most of these goods were food and agricultural products, as Japanese consumers are particularly fond of Nebraska's beef. Japan is also the largest foreign investor in Nebraska, having invested more than $4.4 billion into the state since 2010. There are already 15 Japanese majority-owned companies in the state, including Kawasaki Motors, which employ over 4,000 Nebraskans. Meanwhile, Japanese students make up almost 4% of all international students in Nebraska, contributing $5 million to the state economy. Educational exchange remains robust thanks to Japan Studies programs at a number of universities across the state, and cultural events, such as the Japanese candy-making class held last year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Savannah Shih is a research intern at the East-West Center and a graduate student of Asian Studies at the George Washington University in Washington, DC.