At trade conference, DeSantis pushes for closer business links with Japan

by | Nov 21, 2022

  • Florida played host to the 44th Southeast U.S. – Japan Trade Conference last week and over the weekend
  • Gov. Ron DeSantis gave opening remarks and was joined by Japanese Ambassador Koji Tomita
  • Florida officials say they are pushing to open up non-stop flights between the Sunshine State and Japan
  • More than 400 government and business leaders attended the conference

While more than 25,000 Floridians earn a paycheck from one of roughly 200 Japanese-owned businesses operating in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis and other Florida business and government leaders say they are working on ways to push both of those numbers higher.

At the 44th Annual Southeastern United States – Japan Trade Conference (SEUS-Japan) held in Orlando last week, DeSantis, acting as host governor, delivered the opening remarks to a group of around 400 business and government leaders from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, who met with a sizable Japanese delegation led by Japanese Ambassador Koji Tomita.

Part of DeSantis’s speech focused on Japan’s role as a force for geopolitical stabilization in the Asia-Pacific region, noting that Japan remains a critical ally to the United States.

“We have threats in this world to free societies. and if you look at the Asia Pacific region, the number one challenge that free people have to deal with is the rise of China and the Chinese Communist Party,” DeSantis said. “And if you look at those threats there’s no way those can be managed without a strong Japan and a strong United States relationship.”

But the bulk of DeSantis’s speech focused on touting Florida’s economic record and successes, and he pledged to work closely with business leaders and officials interested in making investments in the region.

The conference was chaired by Eric Silagy, Chairman and CEO of Florida Power and Light, and Masaaki Tsuya, the former CEO and Chairman of Bridgestone. They were joined by several Japanese Consul Generals and top state commerce officials from across the Southeastern United States.

“SEUS/Japan is vital to bolstering and diversifying Japan’s economic ties with Florida,” Silagy said. “Over the course of the meeting, we continued to advance transportation infrastructure, connectivity and cultural ties to make our state the ideal location for Japanese investment and trade.”

On the topic of connectivity and transportation, one of the recurring themes heard from the Florida delegation was a pledge to push for direct flights between Japan and Florida.

“We would like to see expansion of flights direct from Florida to Japan and vice versa.” DeSantis said during his opening remarks, highlighting the state’s tourist attractions and business links with Japan.

The pledge to push for non-stop flights to and from Japan was echoed by Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd, who told The Capitolist, “We are optimistic that a direct flight between Florida and Japan will be coming soon.”

“Florida is not just the best place in the US to do business, but one of the best places in the world to do business,” Byrd said. “The SEUS Japan conference confirms the important trade relationship between Florida and Japan in the areas of aerospace, aeronautics, manufacturing, tourism and cultural exchanges.”

The event wrapped up on Saturday, marking the first in-person meeting of the association in the past three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Japan is Florida’s third largest bilateral trading partner, with annual trade surpassing $7.7 billion annually. 

“We all appreciated Gov. DeSantis spending so much quality time with the delegates and the high level of engagement and support his team,” said Silagy, “including Secretary of State Cord Byrd, Secretary of Economic Opportunity Dane Eagle and Deputy Secretary of Commerce Laura DiBella, provided to the conference.”
The host of the conference rotates each year. Next year’s conference will be hosted in Japan.


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