March 20, 2004
Margy Johnson, director of the Governor's Office of International Trade, left Anchorage for Tokyo on Monday, traveled to Seoul, South Korea on Tuesday, moved to Taipei, Taiwan today, and was scheduled to visit Beijing early next week.
"The nations of the Pacific Rim represent a natural market for the resources that are the foundation of Alaska's wealth," said Johnson. "Personal relationships are critical to doing businesses in Asia, and trade missions like this are a proven means of advancing our interests as a resource-rich exporting state."
In Tokyo on Monday, Johnson served as the governor's representative to a ceremony marking the conclusion of Alaska Kai, an organization that for 40 years has worked to improve personal and business relationships between Alaska and Japan. Johnson credited Alaska Kai for playing an important role in fostering and expanding international investments in Alaska, starting with logging operations and pulp mills in Southeast Alaska in the 1950s. She also played a videotape at the event in which Governor Murkowski conveyed a personal message to members.
"Alaska Kai played a critical role in building the personal and business relationships that brought many millions of dollars of investment in our state, and thousands of jobs for our residents," Johnson said. "I was pleased to convey Governor Murkowski's best wishes to Director General Toshio Yamanouchi and to Chairman Hironori Shimizu, and to express to all members his desire to build on Alaska Kai's legacy by continuing to advance our relationship."
Johnson is making approaches to a number of potential buyers of Alaska resources. In Taipei, she met with Pro Seafood, a company with an interest in purchasing Alaska seafood products. She met with Edwin Chen, vice president of TaiPower, who recently led a delegation of six technical experts from TaiPower and China Steel, Taiwan's national power and steel-making companies, to Southcentral Alaska to review the state's coal export opportunities.
Johnson also met with representatives of the Taiwan Chamber of Commerce, which is planning to visit Alaska with a delegation this next fall during the annual meeting of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce. Johnson was the first woman to serve as chair of the state business advocacy group.
In Seoul on Tuesday and Wednesday, she touted the benefits of Alaska's pink salmon in meetings with representatives of Dong Won Food and Beverage, which is exploring the possibility of purchasing more of Alaska's abundant pinks for sale in the flip-top cans popular in South Korea. As part of an effort to identify new market niches for Alaska products, the company is producing a limited run of 200,000 cans of pink salmon enhanced with the addition of olives and olive oil.
When she arrives in Beijing Sunday, Johnson plans to visit a forest products facility that imports Alaska timber in the round for processing into a number of products for domestic use. The highlight of the China visit is a conference produced by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, which will bring Beijing-based western chefs together to learn new ways to use wild Alaska seafood.
"Alaska's resources have won us many customers over the years, and Governor Murkowski's personal attention to Alaska's relationship with the Asian markets has won us many friends," Johnson said. "It is exciting to see the high level of economic activity in these countries, and encouraging to see how willing they are to continue, and -- we hope -- increase their purchase of our products."
Johnson plans to deliver a full report on her mission to Governor Murkowski on her return Sunday.
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