Hyogo lawmakers bent on U.S. diplomacy boost

by Minoru Matsutani

Staff Writer

Liberal Democratic Party members of the Hyogo Prefectural Assembly began periodic meetings this month with representatives of the U.S. Consulate in Osaka-Kobe to enhance diplomacy with the U.S. through better communication, an assembly member said.

“The Japan-U.S. relationship is very important and there are things local governments can do to help,” Hyogo Prefectural Assembly member Miya Shidehara said during a recent interview with The Japan Times.

In the Nov. 15 meeting with the U.S. Consulate representatives, the participants, including Shidehara, discussed the importance of the Japan-U.S. relationship and amicable relations with neighboring countries.

The U.S. side said in the meeting that the appointment of Caroline Kennedy as the ambassador to Japan indicates President Barack Obama’s commitment to maintaining a solid bilateral relationship between the two best friends, Shidehara said, adding the meetings will be periodic.

Assembly members hope communication will help them come up with ideas on how to enhance services to foreign companies in order to attract foreign direct investment.

For example, Hyogo has a zone for foreign companies where rent is lower than other areas, but very few foreign companies have located in the area, she said.

Assembly members may be able to figure out how to correct this through close contact with the U.S. Consulate.

Hyogo and Washington state have a sister-state-prefecture relationship. The Hyogo Prefectural Government has an office, and sends officials to Washington to introduce Japanese companies to local businesses and political officials, and help them in other ways.

Current exchanges between the prefecture and the state are mainly mutual ceremonial visits by politicians. Shidehara hopes better communication with the consulate will help increase exchanges both ways.

Reaffirming the importance of strengthening diplomatic ties with the U.S., Shidehara attended lectures at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and met some council members of cities in the U.S. and members of Congress in May 2012. She was a participant in the Georgetown University Leadership Program, or GULP, organized by the university, Amway Japan G.K. and The Japan Times.

One of the lectures that left a strong impression on her was about political science. The lecturer mentioned the Apollo program to put a man on the moon as an example of having long-term views instead of being just for one-off events.

“Nobody back then thought humans could go to the moon. The professor said it is human instinct to seek immediate praise from people, but we should get out of such a mindset. It’s difficult but important,” she said.

Outside the classroom, she met American politicians and had a “feeling of closeness” when she realized they had the same problems as she did, such as being too busy to visit supporters in their constituencies.