(Posted March 16) On global trade, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has made it clear that he believes the USA is getting “a bad deal.” Most of his criticism has been directed at China and Mexico, but most recently he has also mentioned “the Japanese.”
That may have made one foreign dignitary concerned, if not nervous, but if so he’s not showing it. He’s Mitsuhiro Wada, the Consul General of Japan, headquartered in Detroit’s RenCen. Interestingly, Wada-sama’s political jurisdiction embraces only two states — Ohio and Michigan. That means he represents Japan’s interests in Buckeyeland, where one of Trump’s rivals for the GOP nomination, John Kasich, is governor, as well as Michigan, where Gov. Rick Snyder, who wisely never made an endorsement in the presidential race, is embroiled in the Flint “water crisis.”
Japan is a major investor and job producer in the Midwest, employing more than 100,000 in Ohio and Michigan alone. “I feel encouraged by the fact that, in Michigan, there are currently 487 Japanese companies providing more than 38,000 jobs,” notes Wada. “As this investment grows, so does the Japanese resident population. We sincerely appreciate the warm hospitality shown to Japanese businesses and residents alike.”
Wada says he’s “very impressed” with the numerous people-to-people exchanges at the grassroots level among “the Michigan-Shiga and 27 sister-cities’ relationships.” He says the Lansing-Otsu relationship is one of the most successful examples, and he notes that in 2018 Michigan and Shiga will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their state-prefecture relationship, begun under Michigan Gov. George Romney in 1968.
Last September, Wada returned to Japan to participate in the 47th Annual Japan-Midwest Conference in Tokyo. There, he met with Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan as well as state and city government officials, economic development officers and business leaders from both Japan and nine Midwestern states.
Wada also notes that, here in Michigan, more than 2,000 university/community college students from K-12 schools are enrolled in Japanese language courses. He also will encourage youth exchange such as the Kakehashi Project-Bridge for Tomorrow and the Japan Exchange & Teaching (JET) program. Kakehashi is an annual program for high school and university students to travel to Japan to interface with local organizations; the JET program allows college graduates to work in Japan as assistant language teachers or as international relations coordinators.
A majority (273) of the Japanese facilities in Michigan operate in the manufacturing sector, 61% of which are automotive-related. There are 116 commercial trade operations, accounting for 24% of Japan’s business presence in Michigan.
Geographically, more than 90% of Japan’s facilities in Michigan are in Metro Detroit, primarily in the R&D, engineering, sales and service industries, providing 23,976 jobs (60% of the Japan’s total in the state). Facilities in outstate regions are predominately in manufacturing, and they provide a disproportionately large number of jobs — 15,662, which is 40% of the total.
As of January, there were an estimated 13,282 Japanese nationals living in Michigan, most of whom reside in Metro Detroit. There is a bigger population of Japanese in Novi than anywhere (3,487), followed by Ann Arbor (1,738), West Bloomfield (1,039), and Farmington Hills (716). Battle Creek ranks fifth in the state with 423.