Japan leader heads to Los Angeles to encourage more trade

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

LOS ANGELES (AP) — After demonstrating the merits of a Japanese-made bullet train to California's governor, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is heading to a session with Japanese-Americans to promote expanded trade between his country and the U.S.

At the halfway point of his three-day visit to California, the Asian leader will attend a Japan-U.S. Economic Forum Friday in Los Angeles where he is expected to announce policies to facilitate American investment in Japan, said Takako Ito, a foreign ministry spokeswoman.

The prime minister, who studied at the University of Southern California's School of Policy, Planning, and Development, will also meet and show support to Japanese students attending U.S. universities, Ito said.

He is scheduled to attend a reception Friday night with U.S. Former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and actor George Takei among the guests.

On Thursday, Abe gave Gov. Jerry Brown a hint of what it would be like inside a Japanese-made bullet train, displaying a train simulator for the California leader.

"There are some people in California who think of high speed rail as a mysterious, very expensive, exotic technology," Brown told Abe during their meeting at a San Francisco hotel. "I hope people see high speed rail is a reality. If you were able to get a train in a hotel, I think I can get a train built from San Francisco to Los Angeles."

Brown has faced opposition in his efforts to build a $68-billion high-speed rail in California to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Earlier Thursday, Abe said during a speech at Stanford that his country needs to emulate Silicon Valley style, risk and innovation.

"We would like to capture the dynamism of Silicon Valley," he said while announcing plans to send representatives from 200 Japanese companies to "sail into the rough waves" of the region over the next five years.

He compared the effort to Japan sending players to Major League Baseball teams.

His country also will send 30 entrepreneurs to pitch ideas to Silicon Valley investors.

Abe also met with Google and Facebook executives and visited electric carmaker Tesla Motors, which is building electric cars in a plant first opened by General Motors more than 50 years ago.

Abe's itinerary also included a discussion with business leaders at a resort on Sand Hill Road, a busy stretch of street known as the epicenter of tech venture-capital companies that have launched Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and other tech giants.

"This Japanese administration has been focusing on changing its economy to a growth-based system built on innovation," said Japanese economic researcher Takeo Hoshi, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. "This is probably the best place in the world to look at that."

The region is home to Google, Apple and other leading tech firms that help drive the U.S. economy. Average annual employee earnings were $116,000, compared with $61,000 nationally. Venture capitalists invested $14.5 billion in businesses, and 76,450 new jobs were created.

Earlier in the week, Abe made the Washington, D.C., rounds with a White House dinner and address to Congress.

While on Capitol Hill, he declared "history is harsh" and offered condolences for Americans who died in World War II.

He stopped short of offering an apology sought by U.S. lawmakers for Japanese conduct during the war, including sexual enslavement of tens of thousands of Asian women by Japan's imperial army.


Associated Press writer Olga R. Rodriguez reported from San Francisco contributed to this story.