As of 2016, there are approximately 150 Japanese companies in Oregon in the manufacturing, services, transportation, and commercial sectors with over $1.6 billion of goods and services exported to Japan. More than 20 sister city relationships have been formed between Oregon and Japan, and the cultural ties between these two regions have culminated in a recent $33.5 million expansion of the Portland Japanese Garden in 2017.
To highlight the depth and breadth of U.S.-Japan security, trade and cultural relations and how they are represented in Oregon, Sasakawa USA visited Portland and Salem with a group of foreign policy and trade experts to conduct the second installment in its The Alliance Working in America (TAWA) program from March 1-2. Over two days, the delegation participated in a number of events in partnership with WorldOregon, and other local organizations including the Japan America Society of Oregon, the Japanese Portland Garden, Willamette University, Portland State University, and the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Alumni Association of Portland.
The Sasakawa USA delegation included: our CEO Ambassador James Zumwalt; Dr. Satu Limaye, Director of the East-West Center in Washington; Stephanie Segal, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Simon Chair in Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and Bill Clifford, President and CEO of the World Affairs Councils of America. Members of Sasakawa USA’s Education Program joined the delegation to organize the series of events and hold additional meetings with key members of the local community: Kazuyo Kato, Director of Education and Finance; Joy Champaloux, Associate Program Officer; and Brittney Washington, Program Assistant. As an alumna, Champaloux led the discussions with JET alumni and Willamette University Students.
On March 1, the delegation participated in a private breakfast roundtable with local economic and trade representatives co-hosted with WorldOregon and the Japan-America Society of Oregon. Participants discussed the impact of foreign affairs on Portland’s local economy, specifically global trade, as well as how the United States and Japan benefit from their trade partnership both on a local and global scale.
Later that day, Ambassador Zumwalt, Limaye, and Segal participated in a public panel discussion co-hosted by World Oregon and the East-West Center in Washington and in partnership with the Japan-America Society of Oregon. The event, “Impact on Trade, Economy, and Community: U.S.-Japan Relations in Portland, Oregon” explored the strength of U.S.-Japan ties and the benefits those ties bring to the United States at the national and regional levels. Local business representative Paul Taylor, Vice President and General Counsel of the North America Division of Ajinomoto, a global Japanese food and chemical production company, also joined the panel to discuss the impact of Japanese business investments in Oregon.
Ambassador Zumwalt opened the panel with a discussion on the importance of U.S.-Japan alliance founded on both shared interests and values. Segal followed with an overview of trends in global trade and U.S.-Japan bilateral trade. On trade negotiations, she underscored the significant impact that NAFTA negotiations will have on future trade negotiations. Limaye focused on trade between Japan and Oregon, using data from the East-West Center in Washington’s Asia Matters for America project to highlight export and import trends, foreign direct investment numbers and other factors that contribute to strong Oregon-Japan ties. Taylor presented on the history, drivers and impact of Ajinomoto’s investment in Oregon as a successful case study of Japanese foreign direct investment that has played an important role in the local economy.
Following the panel discussion, the delegation visited the Portland Japanese Garden, which welcomed an incredible 450,000 visitors in 2017. The group participated in a tour of the grounds and newly expanded Cultural Village. Boasting an impressive eight gardens, the delegation was introduced to the variety of Japanese garden styles and techniques and the Garden’s commitment to use only local plants and trees in its development. The delegation also learned that the Garden serves as a living “classroom” by hosting traditional Japanese festivals, artist demonstrations, art exhibits and classes throughout the year. The tranquility of the gardens was the perfect backdrop for the evening’s reception co-hosted with the World Affairs Council and the Portland Japanese Garden to thank our partners and friends in Oregon for supporting our program.
On March 2, the delegation visited Willamette University in Salem, OR located about an hour south of Portland. Ambassador Zumwalt, who served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo in 2011, gave a public lecture to approximately 40 students and faculty members about “Goodwill and the Alliance: U.S.-Japan Cooperation during and after March 11”, which was co-hosted by the university’s Center for Asian Studies.
Following the lecture, the Center for Asian Studies hosted a lunch for the speakers with the university’s Japanese language students to discuss career opportunities using their language skills. As a former Willamette University student, Champaloux, addressed the challenges facing many liberal arts majors on finding job opportunities after graduation. She shared her experiences on the JET Program and in the nonprofit sector, while Ambassador Zumwalt talked about his career in the U.S. Foreign Service and Dr. Limaye and Washington shared their experiences in academia.
Before leaving Salem, the delegation had a brief tour of Willamette University’s sister-college, Tokyo International University of America (TIUA), a satellite campus to Tokyo International University in Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture. Every year, approximately 120 Japanese students attend TIUA through the school’s American Studies Program and live amongst Willamette students. The Willamette/TIUA sister-college ties as well as the sister-city ties between Salem and Kawagoe prefecture are important examples of how the United States. and Japan mutually benefit from strong relationships between the two countries.
In the afternoon, Ambassador Zumwalt and Limaye visited the Portland State University (PSU) on “The Role of the U.S.-Japan Alliance: The Story of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami”, co-sponsored by PSU’s Initiative for Community and Disaster Resilience (ICDR) and the Center for Public Service. The event was attended by PSU students, faculty, and community members, and focused on the U.S. government response to the disaster that struck Japan on March 11, 2011 with additional insights on the strength of U.S.-Japan relations from the East-West Center in Washington’s Asia Matters for America project.
As a final event of the program, Sasakawa USA co-hosted a private dinner with the JET Alumni Association of Portland in recognition of the key role that JET alumni play in contributing their in-depth and nuanced understanding of Japan to enhancing cross-cultural understanding and strengthening U.S.-Japan bilateral relations in their local communities. The discussion was on “Strengthening U.S.-Japan Relations: Opportunities and Challenges for the JET Alumni”, and featured two JET Program alumni: our delegation member Bill Clifford (Shizuoka Prefecture, 1987-89) and Doug Smith (Okayama Prefecture, 1987-89), International Business Development, Port of Portland. Michael Richey (Shiga Prefecture, 2008-10), Editor, Tofugu and President of JETAA Portland, moderated the discussion. Speakers explored how the JET Program experience has contributed to their individual careers and discussed opportunities ahead for JET alumni to contribute toward strengthening the U.S.-Japan relationship.
The series of events held for the TAWA Program in Oregon enabled Sasakawa USA to communicate the benefits of U.S.-Japan relations to a diverse set of American in the region, including current and future leaders of the community. We thank our local partners for their contributions and hope to continue our collaboration on U.S.-Japan relations going forward.