Gov. Jay Inslee today returned from a nine-day trade mission to Korea and Japan where he and more than 100 delegates met with top-level business and government leaders to promote trade and collaboration on everything from aerospace and wine to emergency preparedness and climate change. Delegates held meetings throughout South Korea and Japan with primary stops in Seoul, South Korea, and Kobe, Nagoya and Tokyo in Japan. Including the Friendship Delegation led by state Senator Karen Fraser, this was the largest-ever state trade delegation.
“There is no better way to showcase Washington’s innovation and entrepreneurial spirit than meeting face-to-face with our prospective partners, customers and collaborators,” Inslee said. “It was clear in my meetings that our state is well known for its world-class workforce and high-quality exports. I was also encouraged by the willingness of leaders in Korea and Japan to work together on issues such as health care, workforce development and climate change. This was an incredibly productive mission.”
The trade mission – which included delegations led by state Department of Commerce Director Brian Bonlender and Department of Agriculture Director Derek Sandison – focused primarily on agriculture, aerospace, advanced manufacturing and technology.
The agriculture delegation had representatives from the potato, blueberry and wine industries and met with more than a dozen food businesses that sell Washington agriculture products in Japan and Korea. These major corporations included 7&I Holdings, owner of 7-11 and Denny’s, and Kewpie Corp., which imports Washington onions for its fried onion flavorings and soups.
The delegates also met with government officials in Korea and Japan to discuss market access issues for those products and hosted promotional events at local restaurants and retailers, including Costco.
“While we’ve seen some immediate results from this trade mission, such as increased business for a premium popcorn company that accompanied the team, I anticipate other successes will follow later thanks to the relationships we’ve developed,” Sandison said. “I was gratified to see that so many consumers in Korea and Japan place such a premium on our products thanks to the reputation we enjoy for safe, healthy, and high quality foods.”
Commerce helped arrange meetings for delegates representing aerospace, information and computer technology, clean energy, biotech, and advanced manufacturing.
The governor and aerospace delegates toured the Mitsubishi Regional Jet assembly facility in Nagoya, Japan. Inslee says the MRJ, which currently has a flight test center in Moses Lake and is opening an engineering office in Seattle, could lead to additional supply chain opportunities in Washington. Delegates toured numerous other facilities such as the Korean Airline Tech Center in South Korea. ASTK makes parts for the Boeing 737 and 747.
The information and communication technology delegates led an ICT forum in Seoul that brought together dozens of participants from the information and communications technology sector. Among the participants was TUNE, an enterprise platform for mobile marketing that has grown from a small startup in Seattle to a multinational company with more than 300 employees in eight locations including Seoul.
“As Washington state’s fastest growing private company in 2014, we at TUNE were proud to participate in the governor’s trade mission,” said Bryan Kim, Managing Director of TUNE’s Asia Pacific initiative. “Opening an office in Seoul has fueled TUNE's growth in the Asia-Pacific region and emergence as the leader in mobile marketing technology.”
Technology was a major focus of the trade mission. Delegates such as Dr. Jihui Yang from the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute met with business and education leaders to talk about potential collaborations around battery research, a key focus for improving the ability to store and distribute energy for use in everything from cell phones to electric vehicles to grid-scale utilities. Sixteen-year-old high school junior Suman Mulumudi, founder and CEO of StratoScientific, joined the delegation to promote his technology that will transform smartphones into digital stethoscopes and vastly improve the ability of doctors to diagnose and monitor heart and lung conditions.
"Many of our state's innovative industry sectors were on full display,” Bonlender said. “Diversifying our state's aerospace OEM manufacturers by bringing in Mitsubishi and its new regional jet is already paying off with Pratt Whitney announcing on this trip 20 new jobs in Moses Lake and the IDEA corp announcing the start of new leads/work during this mission. This mission led several of our ITC companies present to find new expansion plans, and we are seeing new partnerships and collaborations formed around clean tech."
Business wasn’t the only focus of the mission. The governor visited the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution in Kobe, Japan, a region that was devastated by an earthquake in 1995. Inslee spoke with experts about strategies to help communities and governments prepare for and recover from large-scale natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. Washington state is currently engaged in planning efforts for an expected large-scale earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Inslee extended an invitation to the Institute to provide assistance in a major emergency management exercise being planned for next year known as Cascadia Rising.
Delegates such as Julian Sharpe, President and CEO of Survival Capsule, a company that provides personal safety shelters, joined Inslee for the tour of the Institution.
A separate Friendship Delegation in Japan, led by state Senator Karen Fraser, included a visit to Washington’s sister state, Hyogo Prefecture. Inslee and members of the Friendship Delegation commemorated more than 50 years of collaboration and partnership by joining Hyogo Governor Toshizo Ido at a reception and ceremonial tree planting.