Gov. Mark Dayton and 24 Minnesota trade delegates are hopping across the Pacific this weekend in search of lucrative contracts in Japan and South Korea.
Officials from Boston Scientific; Medtronic; Minnesota ag product companies and law firms are part of the delegation that also includes officials from the Minnesota Trade Office, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, The University of Minnesota, and The University of St. Cloud.
While the weeklong agenda officially doesn’t kick off until Sunday, Dayton lands in Japan Saturday. He will be in Tokyo until Tuesday glad-handing government and corporate officials.
While a key focus of the week is South Korea, Japan is significant; it is Minnesota’s third-largest trading partner of manufactured goods behind Canada and China.
Grain purchases are the star of the state’s relationship with Japan. The country’s purchases of Minnesota corn, wheat and other cereals jumped 43 percent in the second quarter to $384 million.
Dayton and Minnesota’s trade delegates may have harder work cut out for them in South Korea. State exports to that country grew 10 percent to $193 million in the second quarter and reached $605 million for all of last year. South Korea, Minnesota’s seventh-largest trading partner, tends to buy auto parts, medical devices as well as grains.
EarthClean Corp. is among the Minnesota companies hoping to make a good impression in Seoul. EarthClean is sniffing for customers for its TetraKO product. The corn-starch-based powder mixes with water to create a biodegradable gel that puts out fires faster than water, foams and other retardants. The South St. Paul based company calls TetraKO it’s “a secret sauce.”
Given the grain needs of both Japan and South Korea, it’s not surprising that a good chunk of Minnesota’s delegation stems from the ag sector. Delegates include The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute; the Midwest Dairy Association; The Minnesota Corn Growers Association; The Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation; The Minnesota Farmers Union and the Minnesota Soybean Association.
“Looks like there is a lot of interest in selling Minnesota farm commodities over there,” said Monte Hanson, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Let’s hope South Koreans are hungry.