In July 2017, Japan’s United Foods International Co., a private food label manufacturer, opened its first East Coast location in Belcamp, Harford County, Maryland. As a complement to its first US office in California, which opened in 1988, United Foods will produce its custom Asian sauces, seasonings, and soups in Maryland, providing up to 125 new jobs at the plant. The Port of Baltimore will aid the company as a hub for importing materials needed from Japan and exporting finished products. Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, who represents Maryland's 2nd district where the factory is located, told Asia Matters “I am thrilled that Japan’s latest investment will yield up to 125 new jobs in the Second District and support the hundreds of thousands of jobs at the Port of Baltimore. Japan has long been one of our strongest economic, cultural and security partners and this project is a reflection of that.”
Japan has long been a focus of Larry Hogan, Maryland’s current governor. His first trade mission as governor in 2015 took him to Japan, where he explored the potential of partnerships between Maryland and Japan concerning liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and railway transportation in the form of a maglev train between Baltimore and Washington, DC. In 2016, Governor Hogan cemented the importance of this relationship by signing a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) between Maryland and Japan, becoming the third state to do so (California and Washington State also have MOCs with Japan). When asked about United Foods’ investment, Governor Hogan stated “We are excited to officially welcome United Foods International to Maryland, and look forward to a continued productive economic and cultural relationship with Japan. Creating 125 new jobs is a tremendous win for Harford County and our entire state, and further demonstrates that Maryland is open for business.”
Trade and investment are not the only strong bonds that Maryland and Japan share. Schools across the state, from Boonsboro High School to the University of Maryland hold student exchanges and teach the Japanese language. When it comes to security exchanges, the city of Baltimore recently hosted the Japanese Coast Guard Academy (JCGA) training ship KOJIMA as it embarked on its annual intensive training course. During its stay at the port, the Japanese cadets visited the US Naval Academy, which is located in Annapolis, Maryland.
Sarah Wang is a Project Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington.