I would like to first say thank you to Ambassador Kennedy and all members of the Embassy for welcoming us on this wonderful evening. I am honored to join you here in Tokyo to promote the state of Oregon and celebrate the wonderful friendship we have developed with the people of Japan.
In my first visit to Japan as Governor, I am inspired to see leaders from Japan and Oregon who work every day to strengthen our business and trade partnership. This work takes years to develop and many of you have known each other for a long time. Tonight, we honor the relationships you have built and everything you have done to bring jobs, growth, and prosperity to both Oregon and Japan. Let’s keep it up.
Oregon exports to Japan increased last year, while Japanese goods coming into Oregon increased as well. While this is worth celebrating, there is more work to do. Tomorrow’s economy will challenge us to keep finding new ways to share the many talents and goods we have to offer each other—and seeing you all here I am confident that the future remains bright.
In Oregon, we make things. Innovative, useful, marketable – and in some cases, delicious – things. We are proud to share our uniquely-Oregon products with the rest of the world.
One Japanese company clearly falls into the “delicious things” category. Ajinomoto Frozen Foods invested in Oregon 15 years ago with the vision of putting down roots and delivering their foods to the entire North American market. Ajinomoto now employs 320 Oregonians. Their signature product, Trader Joe’s Pot Stickers are very well known in our country.
These relationships and investments certainly bolster our respective economies. But perhaps most important, they lead to a deeper cultural connection between the people of Oregon and the people of Japan. Because of our history together, it is our responsibility to help ensure this tradition continues for future generations.
I’m proud of the work being done at the Inbound Cultural Exchanges and Sister Programs like the one at Richmond Elementary School in Portland. We are also proud to have the Japanese American Society of Oregon, one of the oldest of its kind in the US. Willamette University’s 40-plus year partnership with Tokyo International University of America has brought thousands of Japanese students and faculty to its campus in Salem, and sent thousands more Willamette students and faculty to teach and learn in Japan.
When we focus on developing personal relationships and cultivating mutual respect for and understanding of each other’s cultures, our economies will thrive together. Let’s continue that growth, together, for many generations to come.