Iowa officials appear to have timed their trade mission to Japan at the right time, given the Asian nation just landed the 2020 Olympic summer games and is enjoying a rebound of consumer confidence and economic activity, Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday.
“Their economy has not been very strong. It’s just beginning to come back,” Branstad told reporters during a teleconference from Tokyo, noting the island nation was ravaged by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. He said news that Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympics “was tremendously well received by everybody.”
Branstad, one of five governors attending the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association conference, said his meeting with business prospects have gone very well and his personal presence may help give Iowa the inside track with an undisclosed Japanese company looking to invest in a U.S. location.
While any announcement likely would be months, possibly years away, Branstad said “it’s important to plant these seeds – let them know what Iowa has to offer. You’ve got to take the long view of this.”
The governor said the Iowa delegation has made contact with officials from Bridgestone, Toyota Financial, Ajinomoto and other Japanese companies that have facilities in Iowa, as well as participating in a special luncheon with representatives from Iowa’s sister state in the Yamanashi prefecture.
Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey also said there have been discussions with meat and grain exporters about agricultural issues with a great deal of conversation about the weather back in Iowa and its affect on crop production. He also said there is support and momentum building for a Trans-Pacific Partnership that could greatly expand trade opportunities for U.S. and Pacific Rim nations.
“We think it could be a very positive thing to break down trade barriers and increase trade,” said Branstad, who noted Iowa this year already has exceeded its 2012 exports to Japan and could double trade by year’s end.
Branstad noted that the 46th annual Midwest U.S.-Japanese Association meeting is slated to be held in Des Moines next year, likely in September although no date has been set yet. The Branstad-led delegation also will make stops in India this week before returning to Iowa, officials said.