March 21, 2019

Stronger relationships, great baseball highlight AWB's trade mission to Japan

By: Andrew Lenderman   Comments: 0
AWB's Business and Baseball trade mission to Japan is strengthening relationships between two major trading partners. Panel discussions featured updates on agricultural exports, high speed trains, the Summer 2020 Olympics and more. (Photo:Aron Kremer for AWB)

Bullet trains. Agriculture. Ichiro.

AWB’s Business and Baseball trade mission to Japan has been a grand slam, helping to forge stronger connections between Washington and Japanese leaders — and creating lasting memories.

Headlines in both countries this week heralded the sentimental send-off for Mariners legend Ichiro Suzuki as well as the Mariners’ fantastic start to the 2019 season with a 2-0 series win over the Oakland A’s. Many from AWB’s 35-member delegation were in the Tokyo Dome to see the action firsthand.

But AWB took care of the business side of the trip first, with two days jammed with policy discussions between two major trading partners.

Washington Director of Agriculture Derek Sandison introduced a panel discussion on international trade and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Washington has a rich trading history with Japan, where consumers and bakers appreciate Eastern Washington’s soft white wheats used in delicate cakes and pastries. That’s just one part of the state’s export economy, which totaled about $77 billion in 2017.

Alex McGregor of the McGregor Co. speaks during a panel discussion as part of AWB's "Business and Baseball" trade mission to Japan.

Alex McGregor of the McGregor Co. is on this week’s trade mission. He told Washington Business magazine last summer that the Pacific Northwest has always been extraordinarily trade driven.

“International relations and international trade are cornerstones for Washington agriculture,” McGregor said. “It has taken generations to build relationships.”

Those relationships are stronger now. Washington Commerce Director Lisa Brown met with Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kiyoto Tsuji. The delegation also got updates – and a ride – on a 150 mile per hour bullet train from Tokyo to Odawara.

AWB President Kris Johnson, left, led AWB's trade mission to Japan this week.
Briefings from former U.S. Ambassador Christopher LaFleur and Seattle Mariners executives highlighted the agenda. And later, the group toured Costco’s Japan headquarters, where the Issaquah-based company has expanded significantly in recent years.

The delegation ended both days of networking and policy discussions with Mariners games at the Tokyo Dome. The crowds were energetic, to say the least.

Mariners left fielder Domingo Santana drove the team to a 9-7 win over the Oakland A’s with the league’s first grand slam of the season on Wednesday night. On Thursday, AWB’s delegation witnessed history as beloved Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki announced his retirement after the Mariners defeated the A’s again 5-4 in extra innings. He left to a standing ovation in front of 46,451 people.

“For me it doesn’t get better than tonight,” Ichiro said, as reported in The Seattle Times. “Nothing can top what happened tonight.”

AWB President Kris Johnson said Mariners and Oakland fans were united as they said thank you.

“What a moment, one for the history books,” Johnson said on Twitter. “...A moment I will remember forever.”

Members of the 2019 "Business and Baseball" trade mission to Japan, led by AWB, savor the moment after a grand slam put the Mariners firmly in the lead during the first game of the MLB season, held in Tokyo on March 20. (Photo: Stephanie Hemphill/AWB)