Amidst Trade Talks, Commitment to U.S.-Japan Relations Remains Vital


From left: U.S.-Japan Council President Irene Hirano Inouye, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

HONOLULU — The U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) and the APEC 2011 Hawaii Host Committee co-hosted an international trade reception at the Bishop Museum on Nov. 11 to celebrate the continued strength of the U.S.-Japan relationship.

“Under President Obama, the U.S. has an increasingly stronger presence in the Asia Pacific region and I am extremely encouraged by that,” said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at the reception. “Japan and the U.S. must partner in order to play a major role in the Asia Pacific Region.”

Noda was joined by Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and U.S. Senate President Pro Tempore Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, all making remarks.

Additionally, more than 600 leaders attended the reception, including Minister Yukio Edano from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki, U.S. Reps. Mazie Hirono and Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, and Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle.

In his remarks, Inouye focused on the extraordinary outpouring of support after the Great East Japan Earthquake, including Operation Tomodachi, led by the U.S. military and Japan Self-Defense Forces, and the response by the people of Hawaii.

“The strong and cherished bond between Japan and Hawaii and the United States was made evident as millions of dollars were raised to support the relief effort,” said Inouye, who serves on USJC Board of Councilors. “Additionally, food, clothing, prayers and aloha were sent to support the survivors.”

The senator also spoke of a new pact by public and private sector leaders to help lessen risks from disasters. “The University of Hawaii, PACOM, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a host of agencies and private national foundations are joining forces to make investments in disaster risk reduction and community resiliency in the Asia Pacific region,” explained Inouye. USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye was among the signatories of the joint statement of intent.

The USJC is also working on the Tomodachi initiative, a public-private partnership led by the U.S. government, the Japanese government and the USJC. The initiative was forged after the earthquake and tsunami to invest in Japan’s next generation and thereby deepen relations between the U.S. and Japan. Tomodachi carries out its mission by supporting initiatives that benefit Japan’s short-term needs and long-term competitiveness with a focus on cross-cultural exchange.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supports Tomodachi, which focuses in part on education and leadership development. “Together, we want to create a Tomodachi generation that is deeply committed to the future of our relationship,” said Clinton at the 2011 USJC Annual Conference.

The USJC is an educational non-profit organization that contributes to strengthening U.S.-Japan relations by bringing together diverse leadership, engaging stakeholders and exploring issues that benefit communities, businesses and government entities on both sides of the Pacific.  Established in 2009, it collaborates with institutions and organizations to develop programs and networking opportunities that highlight the importance of people-to-people relationships and give the council’s national network of Japanese American leaders the ability to contribute their unique perspectives.

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