Japan shows interest in expanding trade relations with Florida’s Port Manatee

Japan’s top Florida-based diplomat visited the International Trade Hub at Port Manatee and met with area business leaders on Friday to explore ways to build on commercial ties that currently bring more than $6.5 billion in Japanese goods into Florida each year.

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Ken Okaniwa, consul general of Japan in Miami, said Japanese companies were interested in expanding their commercial ties to Florida, and that the purpose of his visit was to learn more about Port Manatee and Tampa Bay to help promote the area to businesses in Japan.

“Japanese company colleagues generally find Florida to be a good place to live and do business,” Okaniwa, who has served as the consul general of Japan in Miami since 2015, said. “This is not a surprise because many of them have achieved growing revenues and expanded operations.”

Japan currently ranks as the second largest supplier of imports to Florida. With nearly 200 Japanese companies currently supporting 24,200 jobs in the state, Okaniwa said, Japan is also a top source of foreign direct investment in Florida.

“Expanding trade with Japan bodes to further the positive economic impacts, including tens of thousands of family-wage jobs, generated by Port Manatee,” Vanessa Baugh, the chairwoman of the Manatee County Port Authority, said. “We are extraordinarily impressed with the potential indicated for bolstering commerce, as we see vast opportunities to grow trade with Japan through Port Manatee.”

Carlos Buqueras, the executive director of Port Manatee, said local officials were “encouraged” by Japan’s interest in expanding trade relationships.

“Port Manatee is a dynamic port that offers an ideal gateway for Japan to thriving Central and Southwest Florida markets,” Buqueras said.