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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy Visits Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan

Asia Japan Korea Taiwan

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently concluded a nine-day trip to the Indo-Pacific region, during which he engaged with leaders from Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan over economic collaboration, educational exchange, and technological development.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently returned from an economic mission to the Indo-Pacific region, which lasted from October 14th to October 22nd. The primary goal was to explore collaboration across multiple sectors and facilitate academic partnerships with Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Governor Murphy was joined in his visits by a diverse 30 to 40-member delegation comprising business leaders, elected officials, and university representatives. Particularly, a notable accompaniment was President and CEO Wesley Matthews of Choose New Jersey – a nonprofit started by then-Governor Chris Christie in 2010 which supported his economic development missions and paid the expenses for these trips. Such high-level engagement involving numerous officials and industry leaders is notable considering this was the first by a New Jersey governor to visit the region since the tenure of Governor Christine Whitman in 2000.

New Horizons for New Jersey in Japan

Beginning his three-country journey in Japan, Gov. Murphy bore witness to the signing of a Letter of Intent (LOI) between Rutgers University, RWJBarnabas Health, and Hiroshima University. The agreement aims to advance cancer research and education between New Jersey and Japan by allowing undergraduates, graduates, and other researchers to collaborate across their respective institutions.

Rutgers University also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with CMIC CMO USA Corporation. The details of this signing include establishing a Center of Excellence in Advanced Pharmaceutical Manufacturing co-positioned at CMIC’s location in Cranbury. This expansion will hopefully double the number of jobs at the facility. Considering that New Jersey is home to the largest concentration of roof engineers and scientists per square mile in the United States, and boasts 14 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies, these partnerships aim to strengthen the state in this sector and the biomedical industry more broadly.

Other preeminent institutions in New Jersey and Japan announced similar memorandums. Rowan University inked agreements with Shibaura Institute of Technology (SIT) and Sekisui Chemical, a prominent manufacturing company with a presence in Secaucus. The MoU with Sekisui formalizes research and development projects, whereas the one with SIT will establish study and faculty exchanges along with creating pathways for sharing research. Similar outcomes were achieved in an MoU between Kean University and Osaka University of Economics.

Governor Murphy also made a flurry of visits with high-ranking officials, including Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, Okayama Prefectural Governor Ryuta Ibaragi, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The subject of these meetings concentrated on strengthening the US-Japan bilateral relationship, but in his visit with Fukui Prefecture Lieutenant Governor Yasuhiro Nakamura, he signed an MoU reaffirming a sister state agreement between Fukui Prefecture and New Jersey. This is a significant renewal, as the relationship was first established in 1990 to promote trade, academic exchange, and tourism.

Similarly, Governor Murphy visited corporations and met with major executives, including Sony Group CEO Kenichiro Yoshida and Fujitsu General President Etsuro Saito. Both companies have a significant presence in New Jersey, with Sony Music Entertainment having a location in Rutherford and Fujitsu with its sales subsidiary in the state as the center of the company’s air conditioner business in North America. Other notable delegations Governor Murphy pitched New Jersey as an economic partner to include the Keidanren, an economic organization with over 1,500 Japanese member companies, and the Japan External Trade Organization. Currently, there are 24,100 jobs at Japanese-owned companies in New Jersey, and 3,346 have been created by Japanese foreign direct investment (FDI) since 2003.

The hope with this plethora of collaboration is that New Jersey’s exports to Japan will grow higher than $4.4 billion, elevating FDI and jobs created by Japanese companies. In the same vein, these memorandums set the stage for attracting more international students, researchers, and tourists from Japan. New Jersey is primed for this increased people-to-people exchange, especially considering how United Airlines at Newark Liberty International Airport includes daily flights to both Tokyo airports: Narita International and Haneda. For flights from the New York City metro area to Japan, United Airlines boasts the greatest number of seats to Japan compared to other airlines.

Historic Venture to South Korea

During his second stop, Governor Murphy made history by becoming the first incumbent governor of New Jersey to visit South Korea. He attended a ceremony where Public Service Enterprise Group and Seoul-based firms Cheryong Electric and Taihan Cable reaffirmed their commitment to joint supply chains for critical electrical components. This partnership was born during the COVID-19 pandemic, exemplifying the recent history of international cooperation between South Korea and New Jersey.

Other MoUs between New Jersey and South Korea. include partnerships between Rutgers University and Seoul National University, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, and Kean University with both Soongsil University and Sangmyung University. First Lady Tammy Murphy witnessed a signing between Sookmyung Women’s University and Stockton University. All these agreements were made to encourage student exchange, but also lay the groundwork for joint courses and distance learning opportunities for students.

Governor Murphy met with senior South Korean officials for many of these agreements. For example, an MoU with Mayor Oh Se-hoon of Seoul emphasized the need for Seoul and New Jersey to support small and medium-sized enterprises. Likewise, Gov. Murphy spoke with President Yoon Suk Yeoul and had dinner with Foreign Minister Park Jin discussing the broader US-ROK partnership.

Image of Governor Murphy and Seoul Mayor Oh Se-Hoon Signing Friendship Agreement (Source: State of New Jersey)

One of the most significant people-to-people agreements was between the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and South Korea's National Police Agency on driver's license reciprocity. This agreement will allow for citizens of New Jersey and South Korea to quickly obtain driver’s licenses between both regions. It was of high priority to finalize, considering that New Jersey has the third largest South Korean-born population in the United States and more than 100,000 Korean Americans.

Similar to his priorities within Japan, Governor Murphy is aiming to establish relationships which will spur economic investment that grows the $2.1 billion in exports between the two regions. South Korea is a particularly lucrative partner, as the country has been the top Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)-linked foreign investor in the United States at $16.6 billion. The ongoing projects are projected to generate approximately 13,515 new jobs nationwide. This potential job creation could add significantly to the existing 8,456 jobs in New Jersey already supported by South Korean firms if those companies decide to choose the state as a future investment hotspot.

Taiwanese Ties Strengthen with the Garden State

On his final stop in Taiwan, Gov. Murphy continued high-level engagements and the signing of various MoUs.

There were some major political arrangements sorted out. For example, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) agreed to exchange information on trade, industry, and investment, as well as work together to explore innovative sectors of the economy. Additionally, the New Jersey Board of Education and Taiwan's Department of International and Cross-Strait Education concurred to foster academic exchanges and collaborative projects focusing on STEM and language education. To conclude these agreements, the New Jersey Department of Banking and Financial Supervisory Commission of Taiwan consented to exchange confidential information, hoping to secure financial investment and transactions.

Taiwanese research institutions and universities also pledged to increase their collaboration with New Jersey during Governor Murphy’s visit. Centering the focus back on the pharmaceutical industry and biotechnology, BioNJ and Taiwan Bio agreed to open communication lines to promote collaborative investigation into the life sciences. In a similar fashion, a new Global Cooperative Research Initiative was signed between the New Jersey Institute of Technology and National Tsing Hua University for the exchange of faculty and students.

Most significantly, though, Governor Murphy and President Tsai Ing-Wen announced plans to open an Asia-Pacific office in Taipei City, Taiwan in 2024. As the nonprofit’s fifth international facility, the office will aim to strengthen ties between New Jersey and the broader region across multiple sectors, including technology, life sciences, clean energy, and education. Other notable meetings include one with Taipei City Mayor Chiang Wan-an and the team from Startup Island, which is dedicated to developing startup ecosystems in Taiwan, a field that is also thriving in New Jersey.

New Jersey's pursuit of economic and political partnerships with Taiwan is driven by several specific developments and characteristics unique to the state. Notably, New Jersey has the fourth-largest Taiwanese-American population in the United States. Additionally, the state economy benefits immensely from Taiwan, with $746 million worth of exports and $105 million in greenfield investment from Taiwanese companies contributing to the local economy. Earlier this year, the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly passed resolutions supporting Taiwan’s international participation with global democracies. With the aforementioned agreements and continued political support, inter-state engagement is projected to increase.

Governor Murphy's journey to Asia advanced New Jersey's international relationships, cultivating collaborations across various sectors with Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. The signing of 27 MoUs and numerous other agreements, coupled with close to 100 distinct events engaging over 1,000 businesses and organizations, not only strengthened New Jersey's connections with these countries but also laid the groundwork for mutual growth.

SeungHwan (Shane) Kim is a Young Professional at the East-West Center in Washington. He is a graduate student at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University, where he is focusing on security and statecraft in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Matthew Willis is a Young Professional at the East-West Center in Washington. He is an undergraduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in International Relations, Economics, Government, and East Asian Studies.