Government

Iowans have quick, but productive trade mission to Japan

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a fundraiser hosted by the Iowa GOP at the Hughes Family Barn in southwest Cedar Rapids on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a fundraiser hosted by the Iowa GOP at the Hughes Family Barn in southwest Cedar Rapids on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Iowa’s trade mission to Japan has generated “great optimism” among the 24-member delegation for continued opportunities to extend or expand markets for agricultural products and generate more investments that will lead to jobs for Iowans, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday.

“I’m really pleased with all of the discussions and the meetings that have taken place,” Reynolds told Iowa reporters during a teleconference from Japan, where it was 7:15 a.m. Wednesday.

“Ultimately, the strategy has been to increase both exports and as well as foreign direct investments,” the governor added. “It’s a vital and a necessary component for our overall economic development strategy, and leading trade missions such as this one really opens doors for the state and the delegates that are able to attend with us.”

The mission, which began Friday and concludes Thursday, is focused on expanding trade and investment opportunities in Iowa’s food and agriculture industry. It has been aided by the recent U.S.-Japan trade agreement that greatly benefits pork, beef, corn and ethanol, said Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig, who also took part in the teleconference.

The phase one agreement — which is under consideration by Japanese government officials with an eye on implementation in early 2020 — would eliminate or lower tariffs on certain U.S. ag products and would provide preferential U.S.-specific quotas for other ag goods that would be advantageous for Iowa, Naig added.

“Generally, I would say that the feeling is one of great optimism here while we’ve been on the ground,” Naig said.

“There’s a lot of potential here, and the future I think is very bright,” added Naig, who called the trip “quick, but productive.”

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In 2018, Iowa companies exported $1.5 billion goods to Japan. Japan is Iowa’s third-largest export destination and the leading export market for pork and beef products. Iowa companies exported $537 million in meat products to Japan last year, and Japan is the second-largest destination for Iowa corn with $491 million in imports in 2018.

The Iowans’ itinerary included stops in Yamanashi — Iowa’s sister state for nearly 60 years — and Tokyo. Mission highlights included meeting with Yamanashi Gov. Kotaro Nagasaki, an embassy reception and face-to-face meetings with industry representatives and investment prospects that Reynolds said were critical to the mission’s success.

Reynolds noted that Japanese companies have made more than $290 million capital investments in Iowa since 2010.

“We are an important market for them, and they certainly are an important market for us,” the governor said. “Based on the meetings that we have had during the mission trip, I’m really positive that we’ve laid a foundation for similar investments in the future.”

Coordinated by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the mission included IEDA and Iowa Finance Authority Director Debi Durham, Iowa companies involved in meat and food processing and representatives from the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Corn Growers and Iowa Sister States.

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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