Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa secretary of agriculture Mike Naig recently led a 24-member trade delegation on a mission to Japan. The mission, focused on food and agriculture, was aimed at expanding trade and investment opportunities and was coordinated by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA).
In 2018, Iowa companies exported $1.5 billion of 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 in 2018. In addition, Japan is the second-largest destination for Iowa corn, with Japan importing $491 million in Iowa corn in 2018.
“Our strategy to increase both exports and foreign direct investment is vital to our overall economic development plan,” Reynolds said. “Leading trade missions such as this opens doors for Iowa by showcasing our products to the global economy and forging personal, face-to-face relationships that last a lifetime. Japan is an important partner with substantial economic power, and we want to encourage Iowa companies to make the most of it.”
The delegation left for Japan on Nov. 8 and were to return to Iowa on Nov. 14. The itinerary included stops in Yamanashi, Japan — Iowa’s sister state — and Tokyo, Japan. Mission highlights included meeting with Yamanashi Gov. Kotaro Nagasaki, hosting a seminar about doing business in Iowa and meetings with existing industry representatives and investment prospects.
“Japan is the largest export market for Iowa’s beef and pork producers. I was excited to be in New York City when President [Donald] Trump and [Japan's] Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe signed the new trade agreement in September,” Naig said. “This trade mission is a great way to celebrate our countries’ renewed partnership and explore new opportunities to work together.”
Mission participants 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 Assn., Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Corn Growers Assn. and Iowa Sister States. Iowa companies participate in meetings specific to their market entry or expansion needs. IEDA has been working with the U.S. Meat Export Federation to identify business prospects for the delegation.
“It’s always interesting to travel and see how our products are presented to consumers in other countries to understand the types of traits and characteristics that those customers are looking for and just generally understand how those products are being marketed,” Naig said.
“Generally, I would say that the feeling is one of great optimism here while we’ve been on the ground," he continued. "There’s a lot of potential here, and the future, I think, is very bright.”
Expanded opportunities are also now a reality, given the recent trade agreement between the U.S. and Japan, he added.