U.S. – Japan Council Annual Conference 2019

Loews Holloywood Hotel, Los Angeles, California
November 4, 2019

Thank you, David, for your introduction. It is a pleasure for me to be here with you today to participate in the U.S.-Japan Council’s 10th Annual Conference. Thank you, Irene, for inviting me to be a part of this important milestone.

I was very pleased to be able to participate in the event the Council co-sponsored last August at Stanford University, where we welcomed a number of Japanese governors to Silicon Valley and I am now very glad to be able to join you here in Los Angeles, America’s second largest city and one of the world’s most diverse, dynamic, creative and leading-edge urban centers in the world. All of California, and especially places like Los Angeles, Hollywood, and all the communities that make up this great region, is an ecosystem where thinkers, inventors, creators, artists, doers, and investors exist side-by-side. It is a place where dreams are imagined and then brought to life, and where nothing is impossible. The people you will find and interact with in this amazing city are among the brightest, most capable, most forward thinking that our nation has to offer.

I think it is very apt that the theme of your conference here in Los Angeles is “Bold Ideas, Bolder Leadership: The Next Stage of U.S.-Japan Relations” for two reasons: first this is a place where you will truly find both bold ideas and bold leaders; and second, this is a state and a city where relations between the United States and Japan have always been nurtured and have thrived. And where, I think, the bonds of friendship and cooperation between our two countries are most wonderfully demonstrated. There are many good reasons why the next stage in our enduring relationship should be launched from here.

In California, we are extremely proud of and grateful for our close relations with Japan. With our magnificent location on the Pacific coast, Californians have always looked west, to the Far East, in our commercial and business dealings. This meant that Japan and California were destined to become close partners. And close partners we have, indeed, become.

California is the number one state in the U.S. in terms of exports to Japan. Last year, 17% of all U.S. exports to Japan — $13 billion in goods — came from California. And we import more goods from Japan than any other state in our union; last year 20% of all Japanese exports to the U.S. were to California. That’s $33.5 billion in Japanese products sold here in California. That made Japan the third largest source of imports into our state, trailing only Mexico and China.

Japanese investment in California’s economy has accounted for 8% of all Foreign Direct Investment in our state over the past 10 years, and Japan is the number one country for Foreign Direct Investment through foreign-owned enterprises in Southern California. These investments translated to 85,000 jobs in more than 2,500 firms generating wages in excess of $5.35 billion, and I think we’ll be hearing more about this in the panel discussion that will follow in a few minutes.

We host the North American headquarters of many key Japanese companies, including Mazda, Fujitsu, Epson and Honda, and I understand that more Japanese companies are consolidating their U.S. operations here in California. We’re very pleased that the Japan External Trade Organization, which supports these investments, maintains offices in both San Francisco and Los Angeles.

There are 116 non-stop flights between California and Japan every week, and last year, we were pleased to welcome over 564,000 visitors from Japan. Among them were a fair number of students. Over 5,000 Japanese students are currently studying in our state, including almost 200 at Stanford, over 120 at U.C. Berkeley, and 96 at San Francisco State. In fact, nearly one/third of all Japanese students studying in America are here in California. And we’d like to see this number increase. It’s worth noting, I think, that back in the 1970s, one of those students was a young man named Shinzo Abe, who spent three semesters at the University of Southern California not far from here studying English, international relations, and political science. I think history has shown that he has put his California education to good use!

At the State level, we’ve had a long relationship with the Japanese collaborating on cutting edge technologies. In the last few years, we collaborated with Japan’s largest public research institution, NEDO, (“Neh-doe” The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization) to fund DRIVEtheARC, a network of electric vehicle charging stations from the beach to Lake Tahoe. This would not have been possible without you.

California has also played a leading role in the development of relations between Japan and the United States. The first official Japanese delegation to the U.S. arrived in San Francisco in 1860. One of the earliest known Japanese settlements in North America, the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony, was located in the Gold Hill region not far from Sacramento in 1869 and is today on the National Register of Historic Places. The first Japanese foreign mission in the world was established in San Francisco in 1870. And following the tragic and unfortunate conflict between our two countries in the 1940’s it was here in California were the peace began to be restored. The Treaty of Peace between the United States and Japan and the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security were both signed in San Francisco in 1951.

Today I think it is fair to say that overall relations between Japan and the United States remain close and strong. We in California were happy to learn of the limited and interim trade agreement between our two countries that will cut tariffs on $7.2 billion worth of America’s agricultural exports and hope this deal will result in even more trade between California and Japan.

Here in California we are proud of our diversity, which makes us stronger, more innovative, more resilient and more unified. And since the late 19th century, Japanese-Americans have been a crucial part of the fabric that makes California unique. We all know of and deeply regret the challenges Japanese-Americans have faced and the grave injustices they have endured, especially internment during World War II. But, despite their Government’s mistakes, their pride, their fortitude, and their drive for success and excellence has never wavered. Now numbering almost half a million, more Japanese-Americans call California home than any other state. Southern California has the largest Japanese population in North America, and the city of Torrance hosts the highest-density Japanese-American population in the 48 contiguous states. Members of the Japanese community have played leadership roles in every field of endeavor and have helped to make our state the open, welcoming place that we strive to be. Way back in 1985, I myself was a proud intern in the office of Robert Matsui, congressman from my home town of Sacramento. His wife Doris Matsui serves in the same seat today. And they are but two of a number of Japanese-Californians who have served at the highest levels of our government.

Finally, let me conclude my remarks by congratulating the U.S.-Japan Council for the great work you are doing through your Tomodachi Initiative. As a former U.S. Ambassador, I know there is nothing more important to the development of lasting relationships between nations than people-to-people exchanges. I salute you for the inspirational work you are doing to bring young people from both American and Japan together to learn more about each other. You are shaping lives for the better and helping to assure that the strong relationship between our two countries will never be weakened.

Japan is a great friend of California and I am proud and pleased that you have chosen to host this important conference here in our state, which has always been, and will always be, our country’s most steadfast partner to Japan and the Japanese people. This is, indeed, a place where you will find bold leadership and a ready launching pad for the next stage of our remarkable, enduring, and expanding partnership.