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OSAKA — The two-day 27th Annual Joint Meeting of the Japan-United States Southeast Association began here Monday with participants upbeat about recent economic trends in both countries.

The conference, which brings together political and business leaders from seven states in America’s southeast and Japanese local governments and businesses, focuses on bilateral trade and investment, public-private ventures, and corporate training and education programs.

“At present, there are more than 1,000 Japanese companies that have invested in seven southeastern states (Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama),” said Taizo Nishimuro, chairman of Toshiba Corp. and chairman of the U.S.-Southeast Association during his welcome address Monday morning.

“These companies have total investments of about $320 billion and employ nearly 150,000 local people,” he said.

U.S. Ambassador Howard Baker has said that U.S.-Japan relations are the best they have ever been.

“There are signs the economies in America and Japan are getting better. I see no black clouds now or in the future to hold back growth and opportunities in both countries,” said William Lechler, chairman of a Virginia-based consulting group.

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