Governor Kate Brown touts Oregon wine and fruit during trade mission to Asia

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Governor Brown visited Japan and South Korea, Oregon’s largest blueberry importer.

SEOUL, South Korea — Governor Kate Brown recently returned to Oregon after a 12-day stay in Asia. During her trade mission, Brown visited Japan and South Korea, aiming to strengthen business ties.

During the pandemic, many states reduced exports and productivity, but Oregon was one of only six to see positive growth in international trade.

Blueberries are one of the main products exported from Oregon to South Korea. As one of the nation’s top producers, Oregon can produce more than 170 million pounds of berries in a good year, according to the Oregon Blueberry Commission. Selling the berries also brings a substantial change to the state’s economy, around $375 million and nearly 4,000 jobs.

While in Korea, Brown also spoke with industry leaders about adding Oregon blackberries and raspberries to their list of imports.

Brown was invited to Korea University in Seoul, reaffirming the school’s continued educational ties to higher education in Oregon. She also pointed to a meeting between the state and the nation with, service between Incheon Airport and Portland International is expected to resume in 2023.

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Asian trade and tourism are key drivers of the state’s economy across the board. Travel and tourism in Oregon is a $10 billion industry and accounts for over $1 billion in tax revenue. Together, Korea and Japan account for 11% of Oregon’s nearly $30 billion annual gross export market.

From Korea, Brown traveled to Japan where she discussed wine and semiconductors with the country’s leaders. She also visited Oregon’s twin Japanese state, Toyama. In 2021, exports to the island nation totaled nearly $1.6 billion, making Japan Oregon’s sixth-largest market. The main favorite products of the Japanese are Oregon wines.

While there, Brown sipped pinot noir and talked wine with Oregon Wine Board President and CEO Tom Danowski. The duo visited Kagurazaka Rouge, a Tokyo wine bar specializing in Pacific Northwest produce. According to Oregon Wine Boardexport sales account for an increasingly large share of the market, with exports increasing by more than 24% in 2020.

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Brown has also strengthened relationships in the technology sector. During her stay, she visited Sugino, a Toyama-based company that partnered with Scapposse Oregon Manufacturing and Innovation Center (OMIC). Sugino specializes in high-end industrial equipment and has partnered with OMIC for future product research and development.

Over 150 different Japanese companies have operations in Oregon. One of them is Hitachi, which opened a nanotechnology research lab in Hillsboro earlier this year. So much of Brown’s time in Japan has been meeting industry leaders. The governor sat down with industry heavyweights like, Nikon, and the Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan to discuss investment in the state’s nascent semiconductor industry.

His trade mission ended with a stop at PDX Taproom, a Tokyo bar that exclusively sells Oregon beer. After covering nearly 5,000 miles, the governor sipped a pint of her hometown to wrap up her first trade mission to Asia in three years.

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