Connecting People & Ideas to Advance Mutual Interests in U.S.-Asia Relations

From March 18-23, the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation welcomed five members of the United States Congress to the Tokyo and Seoul meetings of the 2019 Foley Exchange. Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Mark Takano (D-CA), participants in last year’s program, served as delegation co-leaders. Representative Sensenbrenner was a longstanding member of the U.S.-Japan-Korea Trilateral Legislative Exchange Program that preceded the Thomas. S. Foley exchange and enabled continuity of relationships and dialogue vis-à-vis past trilateral legislative discussions. Mark Takano, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, is an important voice on U.S-Japan alliance issues and trilateral regional security discussions.

Representatives French Hill (R-AR), Judy Chu (D-CA), and Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) also participated in the exchange, further adding to this year’s diverse U.S. delegation. Representative Hill has represented the U.S. in historic bilateral trade talks with Japan in the Structural Impediments Initiative and currently serves with Representative Takano on the Japan-United States Friendship Commission. Representative Chu serves as chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, which advocates for the needs and concerns of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In that capacity, she has become an important voice for Asian Americans. Representative Lawrence’s home state of Michigan has strong economic ties to Japan, which is the leading foreign investor in the state’s industrial sector.

Representative Mark Takano with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

The topics for this year’s bilateral and trilateral discussions were North Korea, Tariffs & Trade, and Energy Security & Climate Change.

The U.S. delegation arrived on March 19 and began with a dinner meeting with Japanese Diet Member delegation leaders Kuniko Inoguchi (LDP, Upper House) and Masaharu Nakagawa (Lower House), along with veterans of the program Hiroe Makiyama (CDP, Upper), Keitaro Ohno (LDP, Lower), and Kozo Yamamoto (LDP, Lower). Ambassador Skipp Orr, a Mansfield Foundation Distinguished Fellow, attended as well to greet the delegations and underscore the importance of the program in today’s political climate.

From Left: Rep. Takano, Ambassador Hagerty, Rep. Lawrence, Rep. Chu, and Rep. Sensenbrenner

The following morning, the U.S. delegation met with private sector leaders over breakfast to discuss U.S.-Japan trade and business priorities. Various Japanese and U.S. business executives attended, including representatives from Aflac, Boeing, ANA, MUFG Bank, Toyota, and Panasonic, among others. Following the breakfast, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty briefed the U.S. delegation on bilateral topics of interest prior to their closed door meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. That afternoon the delegation met with Minister Masahiko Shibayama of Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), toured an Olympic venue, and met with training athletes. The delegation then visited the Tokyo Station Bullet Train Control Facility and discussed infrastructure project aspirations in the United States and female representation in traditional sectors. The official bilateral dinner on the March 20 kicked off the bilateral workshop and built integral relationships that continued on to the bilateral discussions the following day.

For the second portion of the program, the U.S. delegation traveled to Seoul, joined by Japanese Diet Members Masaharu Nakagawa (Lower) and

The U.S. Delegation with the Neutral National Supervisory Commission standing in front of border to North Korea at the Military Demarcation Line

Yukihisa Fujita (CDP, Upper). Prior to the official Trilateral Dialogue in the afternoon of March 22, the U.S Delegation was briefed by U.S. Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires Rob Rapson on domestic issues, Japan-South Korea relations, and the U.S.-ROK alliance. The delegation also met with the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea to discuss trade priorities with representatives from member organizations including Lockheed Martin, United Airlines, and Raytheon. The Trilateral dialogue wrapped up with dinner at the official residence of the Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Moon Hee-sang. On the last day of the exchange, the U.S delegation and National Assembly Members Lee Jongkul, Chung Dongyoung, Lee Soohyuck, and Kim Hanjung traveled together to the Demilitarized Zone, where they were welcomed by both the United Nations Command and the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission. The visit put into perspective the previous discussions on security concerns.