TOKYO – A Louisiana delegation led by Gov. John Bel Edwards met Monday with top energy, industry and trade officials from Japan, one of Louisiana’s leading international trade partners, kicking off the governor’s economic mission to Asia. The governor also visited with executives of Zen-Noh, whose subsidiary Zen-Noh Grain Corp. is based in Louisiana. Later in the day, Gov. Edwards and Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson met with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

Gov. Edwards is making the first Louisiana trade mission to Asia in almost a decade to strengthen economic ties with both Japan and South Korea and to promote Louisiana’s appeal for foreign direct investment. The governor is joined by Pierson, members of the governor’s staff and LED’s Office of International Commerce. 

“Japan has long been a vital trading partner for Louisiana, and we hope to extend that relationship well into the future,” Gov. Edwards said. “Many significant Japanese companies are already doing business in our state, investing in impressive manufacturing facilities and providing quality jobs for Louisiana’s workforce. We are here to thank these economic allies for calling Louisiana home and to encourage them to continue investing in our state. Also, in our meeting with government officials today, we explored important opportunities for Louisiana to help address international energy security challenges through our energy production and export capabilities. The significance of Louisiana’s natural resources extends well beyond our state, and we recognize the role Louisiana has to play in meeting these global issues that impact us all.” 

Louisiana’s abundant energy resources were spotlighted at a visit to Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy. Discussions with Director General Ryo Minami and other top agency officials focused on Louisiana’s ability to export oil and liquefied natural gas due to its high production and refining capacity. Demand for LNG exports, in particular, has increased in the past year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted international supply chains. The groups also found common ground in a shared commitment to carbon footprint reduction, as demonstrated in Louisiana by the diversification of its energy sector into renewable fuels and cleaner production methods. They agreed that we must address the energy transition through a balanced approach that includes both traditional and emerging sources of energy. 

The governor and his team also met with executives of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, including State Minister Shinichi Nakatani. The discussion included a focus on Louisiana’s role in ensuring both diverse and secure supplies of energy for U.S. trade partners and how Louisiana and Japan can further strengthen our relationship through future investments, including clean energy opportunities. 

Later, Ambassador Emanuel discussed with Gov. Edwards and Secretary Pierson opportunities available to Louisiana for further economic development within the framework of American foreign policy. Also noted was Louisiana’s pivotal role in the development of NASA’s Artemis space mission. The Space Launch System rockets that will propel the next generation of spacecraft to the moon and, ultimately, to Mars, are being built at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The U.S. and Japan have recently struck partnership agreements related to the Artemis project, confirming the use of Japanese life support systems and other mission-critical technology.

Ambassador Emanuel touted Louisiana’s “commercial diplomacy” with Japan in social media posts announcing his meeting with Gov. Edwards. “From New Orleans to Narita, from the Bayou to Beppu, we are strengthening Louisiana-Japan connections,” the ambassador said on Twitter. “Japan is Louisiana’s largest Asian trading partner, and Louisiana companies export more than $2.6 billion in goods to Japan.” 

The Louisiana group began the day Monday at Zen-Noh’s corporate office and met with President and CEO Sakae Noguchi and other company executives. Zen-Noh, a federation of Japanese agricultural cooperatives, has a significant role in Japan’s agricultural sector.

Zen-Noh Grain Corp. was established in New Orleans in 1979 to facilitate the export of soybeans and grain through Louisiana for use in Zen-Noh feed mills in Japan, and they recently celebrated their 40th anniversary of operations. The company is now headquartered in Covington and operates a state-of-the-art export elevator on the Mississippi River near Convent. 

On Tuesday, the governor will meet with officials of Shin-Etsu Chemical and other leading companies. Shin-Etsu is the parent company of Shintech, the chemical manufacturer that has made multi-billion-dollar investments and created hundreds of quality jobs at facilities in West Baton Rouge and Iberville parishes.