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Walz recaps Asia trip focused on fostering Minnesota ties

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Gov. Tim Walz talks about his trade trip
Gov. Tim Walz talks to reporters on Friday about his trade trip to Japan and South Korea.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

Just back from a trip to Asia, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Friday that his state’s farmers remain in desperate need of a U.S. trade deal with China.

Walz recapped discussions he had with trading partners in Japan and South Korea, which continue to be a reliable destination for soybeans and other crops grown in Minnesota and across the Midwest. But he’s concerned that export markets that are closing amid a U.S.-China trade dispute that has caused tit-for-tat tariffs.

Walz said his delegation on the six-day trip heard from business leaders and government officials that Japan has a limited opportunity to accept more agriculture imports from Minnesota.

"There’s just no substitute for 1.6 billion consumers who are hungry to get our China trade negotiations normalized," Walz said. "There is not enough market in the rest of the world to absorb our capacity."

Walz said he picked up on uneasiness in other Asian nations about the tariff battle among two of the world’s economic powerhouses.

"At a time of chaos and unrest in trade," Walz said, "our Japanese and South Korean partners are looking for solid relationships with states, and Minnesota in particular, that share their values."

He said he spent plenty of time touting Minnesota’s educated labor force and work ethic as assets for companies looking to establish or expand their presence in the region.

The DFL governor spent time with officials from Minnesota companies already doing business in Japan, including Medtronic, 3M and Boston Scientific.

They also met with Korean companies with investments in Minnesota, including Doosan Group, which owns the Bobcat construction machinery company in Owatonna, and South Korea's largest food manufacturer, CJ CheilJedang Group, which owns the Schwan's food company in Marshall. They also met in Japan with officials from Kito Corporation, which owns Peerless Chain in Winona.

They also hosted a meeting with 40 companies in Japan that don't currently do business with Minnesota.

Back on home soil, Walz said his administration plans to re-evaluate where Minnesota has trade representatives.

Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove, who accompanied Walz in Asia, said the focus is on nurturing relationships can be furthered through state trade outposts abroad.

"In a global economy to have someone all the time there to represent Minnesota makes a difference," Grove said. "We’ve looked both at markets where we have long-standing, deep trade relationships but also kind of high-potential markets where we think we can a shift or a change or an acceleration with a person on the ground there."

There are seven markets across the globe currently where Minnesota has some regular representation. The contractors help promote the state as a place to do business.

The Associated Press contributed to this report