Gov. Rick Scott met this week with a consul general of Japan, as the governor tunes up for a trip to Japan that is part of an effort to increase trade with Asian countries.
Without elaborating on details of the visit Monday in the Capitol, Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said the governor and Shinji Nagashima, consul general for the Consulate-General of Japan in Miami, discussed the upcoming trip.
A spokeswoman for the consulate-general simply described the meeting as a "courtesy visit," as Nagashima was appointed to the Miami post in September.
Scott and a delegation from Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership that serves as the state's business-development arm, are expected to travel with a small group of business leaders to Toyko and Osaka from Nov. 2 to Nov. 9. The trip will be the first for a sitting Florida governor to Japan since former Gov. Lawton Chiles went to Japan and South Korea in 1997.
Enterprise Florida spokesman Sean Helton said the tour is part of an expanding strategy to grow markets that haven't historically been as active trading partners for the state as some markets in Latin American and the Caribbean.
"With the expansion of the Panama Canal and increased access to the state, Floridas foreign direct investment from those Asian markets stands to increase significantly," Helton said in an email.
While historically not as active as Brazil or Colombia, Japan is eighth among nations as a merchandise trading partner with Florida, according to Enterprise Florida figures.
Cars and other passenger vehicles are easily the state's top imports from Japan, while fertilizer, civilian aircraft and aircraft parts, and citrus are among the primary items shipped from the Sunshine State to Japan.
The state estimates there are at least 119 Japanese companies that have operations in Florida, accounting for 20,400 jobs.
An estimated 278,000 Japanese tourists visited Florida last year, according to VisitFlorida.com.
The trip will be Scott's 10th trade-related trip to a foreign nation.
Scott has taken more foreign trips than his predecessor Charlie Crist, then a Republican, did during four years in the governor's office. Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who served eight years, went on 16 business-related missions to other countries.
Helton said the Japan trip won't feature massive trade-show components that have been featured in trade missions headed by Scott to Paris, England, Brazil and Colombia.
"The Japan mission will allow the governor, (Secretary of Commerce) Gray (Swoope) and others to talk with Japanese business leaders, share Floridas business story and promote the state as a foreign direct investment partner," Helton said in an email Monday.
A final agenda has yet to be set for the trip, and a list of delegates has not been released.
The November trip is one of two upcoming trade-related outings linked to Japan that will include Scott.
Scott is expected to lead a delegation of business leaders to a joint meeting of the Southeast U.S./Japan Association and the Tokyo-based Japan-U.S. Southeast Association, in Biloxi, Miss., from Nov. 17-19.