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To grow Nebraska, we must continue to develop new international partnerships and deepen our existing trade relationships. Trade missions allow leaders in our state to meet face-to-face with overseas buyers, government officials, and businesses. They allow our farmers and ranchers to tell the story about Nebraska agriculture and to promote their world-class commodities firsthand. They also give Nebraska businesses an opportunity to showcase their goods and services directly to prospective customers. These personal connections help establish lasting relationships, built on personal trust, that open markets for our exports and bring jobs to Nebraska.

I am leading a trade delegation to Vietnam and Japan from Sept. 3-10 aimed at boosting exports and attracting investment in our state. Japan has long been one of Nebraska’s best and biggest trade partners. With $412.1 million exported in 2018, Japan is Nebraska’s top market for beef exports. Japan is also Nebraska’s top direct international investor. For example, Kawasaki has operated a major manufacturing facility in Lincoln since 1974, which now employs around 2,000 Nebraskans. Currently, the Lincoln plant is manufacturing hundreds of railcars for the New York City subway system as part of a $1.4 billion contract.

Recently, the Trump Administration has been in talks with Japan to make the relationship even stronger. Last week, Japan announced plans to import an additional two million tons of U.S. corn each year, an annual increase of about 25 percent. A renegotiated trade agreement with Japan is also in the works. It significantly reduces tariffs on U.S. beef, pork, wheat, and dairy products and makes it easier for U.S. companies to export ethanol to Japan. This new deal should be finalized in September, and it greatly benefits our state’s ag community.

We’ll spend the upcoming trade mission to Japan in Tokyo, the country’s largest city. I plan to meet with Japanese governors, business federations, and food processing companies during the visit. Our delegation will also participate in a reception with Nebraskans who now live in Japan. Many of these “friends of Nebraska” grew up in the Good Life or graduated from our state’s universities, and they serve as unofficial ambassadors to help promote our state in Japan.

Vietnam is one of our fastest-growing international partnerships. In a single year, from 2017 to 2018, Nebraska’s beef exports to Vietnam increased 127 percent. With 96 million people, Vietnam has a larger population than California, Texas, and Florida put together. The country’s middle-class has been growing rapidly, and as it gains wealth, Vietnamese customers are looking to buy higher-quality goods. This creates demand for the premium beef and pork that comes from Nebraska and is recognized around the globe for its superior quality.

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Nebraska has a special connection to Vietnam. he current U.S. Ambassador there, Daniel Kritenbrink, is a native Cornhusker who graduated from the University of Nebraska Kearney. When Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Steve Wellman traveled to Vietnam a year ago, Ambassador Kritenbrink shared his memories of growing up on a farm near Ashland and highlighted Nebraska’s global leadership in agriculture. Our delegation will reconnect with the ambassador on this trip. We’ll also meet with high-ranking officials in the Vietnamese government and sit down with local business leaders to discuss opportunities for partnership.

Strengthening ties with Japan and Vietnam is of great strategic importance to our state in light of current trade challenges with China. Nebraska and China have shared an important trade relationship for many years, and I have led two trade delegations there. However, China has been an inconsistent trade partner. President Trump is right to insist on a trade deal with China that protects intellectual property rights and includes more equitable terms for American businesses. Given the uncertainty of ongoing negotiations with China, it’s wise for Nebraska to focus on expanding trade with other Asian nations.

Nebraska’s farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers work tremendously hard to grow crops, raise livestock, and make products of the finest quality. It’s vital that we work every bit as hard to ensure that we are opening up new markets for our goods — both at home and abroad.

I invite you to visit www.governor.nebraska.gov over the next couple of weeks for updates on the trade mission to Vietnam and Japan. If you would like to share how trade and/or international investment have grown your community, please write me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call 402-471-2244. I look forward to hearing your stories and to giving you a full report on the trade mission after I return.

Pete Ricketts is the governor of Nebraska.

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