TOKYO — Gov. Kate Brown last week led an Oregon delegation to Japan focused on doing business with the state’s top export market for agricultural products, but she said the Trump administration’s rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership has put a damper on any new business.
Brown told the Capital Press the delegation of Oregon businesses had conversations about the TPP with the Japanese business leaders it met, as well as with the U.S. embassy.
“We are clearly right now in a no-person’s-land, where there’s a lack of clarity about federal policy,” Brown said of the TPP. One of President Donald Trump’s first acts after he entered office was to reject the TPP, a trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations, including Japan and U.S. He said he intends to negotiate one-on-one treaties with the nations involved.
Brown said her role as Oregon governor is to make sure that exporters are continuing to build relationships to ensure that the state’s products find lucrative markets.
But she said uncertainty over tariffs hinders trade on both sides.
“I certainly raised this issue when I was speaking to (U.S. ambassador to Japan William) Haggerty, letting him know that our agricultural products are very reliant on the markets in Asia, particularly in Japan, and that we need to make sure that we can get our products to market in a cost-efficient manner,” Brown said.
Headed by Oregon Director of Agriculture Alexis Taylor, the contingent of eight food and beverage exporters included Willamette Valley Fruit Co. of Salem, OFD Foods of Albany, Northwest Hazelnut Co. of Hubbard, Ponzi Vineyards of Sherwood, 2 Towns Cider of Corvallis, Bossco Trading Co. of Tangent, Weaver Seed Processing of Scio and Pacific Seafood of Clackamas.
One of the things the agribusiness side of the tour focused on was helping companies build additional relationships with importers if they are already exporters, or helping introduce them to the market if they are first-time exporters here, Taylor said.
To help build those relationships, organizers set up more than 36 meetings between the Oregon food and beverage companies and various importers.
“In Japan, relationships and introductions are very important,” Taylor said.
Among the newer Oregon products vying to come to Japan are hazelnuts and blackberries. “We’ve also done a lot of work with craft beverages,” Taylor said.
She said some Japanese food companies are also investing in Oregon and starting businesses there, so they can source the products that they are looking for directly.
“Also, what we have found is there are Japanese food companies that are investing in Oregon and then are finding that there is a market for them” in the state, Taylor said.
On a stopover in Hong Kong Oct. 9 before the four-day trip to Japan, Brown met with officials of Cathay Pacific Airways, which nearly a year ago began direct air cargo flights between Portland and Hong Kong.
The flights are important for the export of Oregon’s perishable ag products such as fresh cherries, live Dungeness crab and cut greens.
During the heavy Oregon cherry harvest season, Cathay Pacific added two shipments to its usual three a week.
“It’s enabling us to get very good Oregon products, from cherry to crab, to market expeditiously so the people of Asia can enjoy those products,” Brown said.