Gov. Ricketts, Lt. Gov. Foley to lead Nebraska delegations on foreign trade missions to Japan

Economic Indicators Associated Press

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Lt. Gov. Mike Foley will travel to Japan in September for back-to-back missions to promote foreign trade and investment, the governor announced Thursday.

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Foley will lead a delegation Sept. 9-11 to promote Nebraska's beef and pork products in the country, which is Nebraska's largest export partner.

Ricketts will lead a separate delegation of state business leaders to the annual Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference in Tokyo, from Sept. 12-16. Ricketts will address the conference on Sept. 14.

"This is the perfect opportunity to continue building on our current relationships and reaffirm our commitment as a key player in Japan and the world marketplace," Ricketts said.

Ricketts said the Japan continues to be one of Nebraska's top export customers and business investors. Brenda Hicks-Sorensen, director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, will join the governor's trade mission to meet with companies and find networking opportunities.

The conference will include about 300 top industry and government officials, with speakers from the United State and Japan. Top executives from Sony, Mitsubishi, Toshiba Corp., Toyota and other Japanese companies participate in the conference each year.

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The trade mission is the second of the governor's administration. Ricketts traveled in June to Italy, Belgium and Denmark to promote the state.

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture is organizing the first part of the trade mission led by Foley. The group will meet with retailers, distributors, importers and restaurateurs in Tokyo, and participate in several promotional events sponsored by the U.S. Meat Export Federation. The delegation will also meet with food bloggers and media members to promote Nebraska's offerings.

"These folks are highly influential in consumer purchasing decisions in Japan, so it's important to have a direct dialogue," Ricketts said.

More than 20 percent of Nebraska's beef exports and more than 50 percent of the state's pork exports end up in Japan, the governor's office said in a news release. In 2014, Nebraska's beef exports to Japan reached the $276 million mark while pork exports totaled $235 million.

Japan is Nebraska's third largest export market. Nebraska posted merchandise exports of more than $735 million to Japan in 2014, representing 9.3 percent of the state's total merchandise exports.

"We don't want to take the market for granted," said Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. "There is room to grow our market share, but we must keep in mind that our competitors are trying to do the same thing."