From left: Takeshi Niinami, Raymond L. Conner, Irene Hirano Inouye, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca M. Blank, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Director-General Junichi Ihara, Thomas Iino.

SEATTLE — U.S. and Japanese government, business and non-profit leaders convened Oct. 5 for the 2012 U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference during a challenging time for the Asia Pacific region.

Keynote speakers at the conference discussed innovative solutions to today’s economic challenges and new opportunities for collaboration that will deepen ties between the U.S. and Japan.

Acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, who leads the department’s efforts to create an environment that strengthens U.S. innovation and competitiveness, said a close partnership between the U.S. and Japan is vital to advance business opportunities in both countries and the Asia Pacific region.

“The U.S.-Japan friendship has taken on deeper meaning over the past five years as both countries have worked together to confront challenges and overcome adversity,” said Blank. “Together, we are moving forward to strengthen our economic relationship, to foster more entrepreneurship and innovation, and to tighten the already close bonds between our people.”

Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray L. Conner spoke about the company’s 60-year relationship and collaboration with Japan and recalled the heroic efforts of one company, IHI, to return to full production after the devastating March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.

“At the end of the day, the Boeing-Japan story is about people and the trust and respect that binds them,” Conner said. “We and our Japanese customers and industry partners have helped each other to build the most advanced airplanes in the world, and we see a future of opportunities to continue collaborating and innovating together.”

The conference provided a platform for discussion about business, entrepreneurship, new technologies and the more specific topic of managing the 1.5 million tons of tsunami debris washing ashore in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska and California.

A panel at the conference featuring officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Japanese government and U.S. non-profit sector found that many public agencies and local governments facing budget challenges are still finding innovative ways to provide resources. National and local NGOs are doing their part by pursuing active citizen engagement and volunteer efforts to raise awareness and keep beaches clean and safe.

This is the first time the U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference was held in Seattle, recognizing the vital and historic relationship between Japan and the Pacific Northwest. The conference also celebrated the vibrant Japanese and Japanese American communities in Seattle.

The mission of the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) is to build strong people-to-people connections between the U.S. and Japan through the work of its national network of Japanese American leaders. A 501 (c) 3 non-profit, USJC brings together diverse leadership, engages stakeholders in the bi-lateral relationship and explores issues that benefit communities, businesses and government entities on both sides of the Pacific.

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