SALT LAKE CITY-- In March 2020, the State of Utah hosted a Japanese delegation primed for spreading awareness of business endeavors amid efforts to increase trade relations between Japan’s archipelago and Utah’s mountainous region. Two flagship events welcomed the foreign visitors hosted first by World Trade Center Utah and then Utah Valley University. These events could not have been done without the unassailable partnership from key community resources, such as Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy, the Utah Governor’s Office for Economic Development, World Affairs Councils of America, Whitmore Global Management Center, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA, and the Consulate-General of Japan in Denver. Over the course of two days, both events gathered internationally-driven and locally-based individuals to share their insight into U.S.-Japan relations, highlighting the mediary niche Utah maintains in this dynamic. As was iterated several times, Utah’s relation to Japan is crucial to the mutual success of both trading partners and remains a pillar to forging lasting relations. Despite mild concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic and its detrimental impact to trade relations, many panelists reassured the overall effects of the rapidly spreading disease would not overwhelm the trading partnership.
World Trade Center Utah held the first panel discussion in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City on March 10, 2020. Our presence was warmly welcomed by Felecia Maxfield-Barrett (Executive Director, Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy), Shanti Shoji (Director of Programs, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA), Miles Hansen (President & CEO, World Trade Center Utah), and Franz Kolb (Director of Diplomacy and International Protocol in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development). Its panelists included Ambassador James Zumwalt (Distinguished Senior Fellow, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA), Yasuhiro Uozumi (Executive Director, Keidanren USA), and Lee Carter (CEO, Rakuten Bank America). Our entourage was an illustrious collectivity of representatives with experience spanning the globe. While Mr. Zumwalt provided keen insight from time working in the U.S. Department of State, Mr. Uozumi and Mr. Carter shared experiences conducting business between Utah and Japan and the fruits of their labors.
Mr. Zumwalt spoke first about the ties which strengthen U.S.-Japan relations. As a former Deputy Chief of Mission in the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, his presentation was especially relevant. He identified four main areas of overlap between U.S. and Japanese objectives: democracy, rule of law, rules-based international order, and strong economic ties. He continued that the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan is the longest bilateral security treaty since the Treaty of Westphalia, housing more U.S. troops in Japan than any other country in the world. Mr. Zumwalt ended with a pro-Japanese sentiment, stating roughly 80% of both civilian populations believe maintaining diplomatic relations is essential. Mr. Uozumi spoke next, highlighting the business role Keidanren assumes in its international operations to emphasize exporting, foreign direct investment (FDI), and economic development and growth. This mantra was most evidently demonstrated in his 2019 U.S. tour, meeting with numerous U.S. governors and forging trade relations in states such as Maryland, Tennessee, Minnesota, and Utah. Mr. Carter concluded the panel discussion by explaining the history and mission behind Rakuten and its e-commerce foundation. He praised Utah for its unique workforce specializing in international experiences which enhance the professional trajectory. The gathering was a wonderful opportunity to bring together key representatives from nonprofit, private, and governments sectors.
The following day, the delegation traveled to Utah Valley University to host a second panel discussion, this time with alternative views on Utah-Japan relations: Osamu Taki (Chief Executive Director, JETRO Los Angeles), Benjamin Hart (Deputy Director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development), and Bryce Hunt (Customer Success Manager, Podium). We were once again welcomed by official co-sponsors of the event: Baldomero Lago (Chief International Officer, Utah Valley University), Miles Hansen (President & CEO, World Trade Center Utah), Midori Takeuchi (Consul-General of Japan in Denver), and Shanti Shoji (Director of Programs, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA). Mr. Hansen emphasized Utah’s commitment to becoming a “full partner” with Japan amid the negative effects of the pandemic. Audience participation involved a greater number of students and faculty bolstering the venue’s academic intent, contrasting the demographic of the previous day. Madame Consul-General Midori Takeuchi stressed the timely relevance of democratic principles such as freedom, diplomacy, and human rights and how these attributes drive the success of the U.S.-Japan treaties. Mr. Taki, representing JETRO (Japanese External Trade Organization), affirmed his allied position with Silicon Slopes to focus on themes such as healthcare technology and infrastructure improvements. Mr. Hart asserted that Utah’s “workforce is at the heart of economic growth” and reiterated that COVID-19 will come and go, but our trading relations will outlast the pandemic. Ms. Hunt paralleled Utah’s business growth with its family growth, maintaining that both models mirror one another.
Utah Consular Corps is equally committed to ensuring Utah-Japan relations endure across all aspects. Our goal aims to increase our consular ranks in the State of Utah, further connecting our state with the rest of the world. We hope to solidify these relations by having an Honorary Consul to Japan appointed in Utah who is vetted by the Japanese government and accredited through the U.S. Department of State. Part of our mission includes the expansion of our consular ranks and we do this by submitting recommendation letters to the respective embassies to facilitate the process of finding qualified individuals to fulfill these important roles. If you know anyone who might possess the qualities and characteristics attendant to an honorary diplomat, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 385-831-0638.