Governor Sanders Delivers Remarks to Keidanren in Japan

TOKYO, Japan–Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered remarks to Keidanren, the Japanese Business Federation, on Wednesday, March 13th. Keidanren is comprised of 1,512 representative Japanese companies, 107 national organizations in major industries such as manufacturing and services, and 47 regional economic organizations. Its mission, as a comprehensive economic organization, is to draw out the vitality of companies and the individuals and communities that support them, and to contribute to the autonomous development of the Japanese economy and the improvement of people’s lives.

The Governor’s remarks as prepared are below:

Good morning! Thank you to the team at Keidanren for hosting us today. I’d especially like to thank Chairman Sawada and Chairman Ueki for presiding over today’s session.

This isn’t my first time in Japan, and after my first impressions from this trip, I certainly hope it isn’t my last.

I was here with President Trump for several of his visits. A lot of his critics back at home said the President’s personality would be too big for our Japanese hosts.

As is often the case, they were totally wrong. The press in particular were surprised when the President walked out to a cheering crowd at a traditional Japanese sumo match. Some people say everything is bigger in America, but in wrestling, your country definitely has us beat.

The trip was a total success. And key to that was our host, Prime Minister Abe – the visionary behind a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.

President Trump built one of his closest foreign relationships with Prime Minister Abe, and I know he and everyone else in our country were heartbroken by the tragic event that took the former Prime Minister from this world far too soon.

It was a privilege to be there to see their friendship grow and to get to talk with him on several occasions. And it’s a privilege to be back. Japan and the United States might have different histories and cultures, but the bonds that tie us together are much stronger than anything that might keep us apart.

Hot Springs, Arkansas, is even a sister city of Hanamaki, Japan. The connection makes sense, considering they’re both built around natural spas.

Over the years, the connection has gotten even deeper. Hot Springs makes its own sake and has its own cherry blossom festival. It’s not quite as big as the one in Washington, D.C., but still a beautiful display of our friendship. Students from Hanamaki have visited and studied in Hot Springs for years.

A Japanese Onsen and an American bathhouse might have some slight differences, but the intent is the same. And I think you can say the same about Japanese and American leadership.

I mentioned it earlier – a Free and Open Indo-Pacific – affirmed that our two nations would work together to promote peace and prosperity. But we also must be realistic about the biggest threat our two nations face: the Chinese Communist Party.

Your country’s leaders have been raising the alarm about this adversary long before many in our country caught on, except for leaders like President Trump. Thankfully, America’s leaders are now paying attention to the problem, but many still don’t take it seriously enough.

Japan doesn’t have that same option. You’re next-door neighbors with the largest threat facing freedom-loving nations since the Cold War.

I was proud to be the first governor in America to kick a Chinese state-owned company off American farmland and out of our state. Arkansas is also home to some of America’s top defense and aerospace companies, helping defend both our own country and our allies.

But if we’re really going to address this threat, we’ll have to do it together. And I believe that there’s no better way to get started on that than in meetings like this one.

We’re lucky that Arkansas and Japan have a deep, longstanding relationship. We’ve had an economic development representative in this country since the 1980s.

And that relationship has worked. Japan is my state’s chief source of foreign direct investment and foreign job creation. 34 Japanese companies operate some 45 facilities in Arkansas.

These types of investments are a win-win: good-paying jobs for Arkansans, and a good return on investment for Japan. And it’s exactly the type of partnership I hope to foster on this trip.

We’re not coming to the table empty-handed, either. In my first year in office, we’ve made significant reforms to help attract businesses to our state.

I know that Japan built its economy in part through an intense focus on education. I promised to be Arkansas’ education governor and launched the largest overhaul of our state’s school system in modern history to achieve that promise.

Already, we’ve raised starting teacher salaries from some of the lowest in the country to some of the highest and made massive investments in literacy and Career and Technical Education.

Arkansas also ranks highly in the United States for its ease of doing business and low cost of living. We’ve improved those statistics by cutting taxes to the tune of more than $300 million. And I’m working to responsibly phase out our state’s income tax.

I know that Japanese culture places a heavy emphasis on honoring natural beauty. I believe in the same thing and am proud to have made significant investments in Arkansas’ park system and our outdoor economy.

All this has combined to create an economic renaissance in our state. More Arkansans are working than ever before. Tens of thousands of people are moving into our state. Last year, my administration helped secure more than $1 billion in proposed business investment.

For foreign investors, my message is simple: Arkansas is open for business. It has never been a better time to visit Arkansas, hire Arkansans, or invest in our state.

And looking at the bigger picture, it has never been more important for our two nations to foster a close relationship. The world is getting more dangerous. Close friends can be few and far between.

I hope that this visit shows you how much Japan and Arkansas have in common: we both value hard work; we both want to see our companies and businesses grow; we both are firmly rooted in tradition, while still finding new ways to innovate every day.

Thank you for the opportunity to be here and I look forward to a great and prosperous friendship.