Youngkin in Japan to forge supply chains with ‘friends’

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TOKYO — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, in a bid to lure more Japanese chip makers to invest in his state, said Thursday he hopes to forge “trusted supply chain relationships” with U.S. allies and friends to create supply chains that are not China-dependent.

Youngkin, considered a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, is making his first trip to Asia as governor, having earlier stopped in Taiwan. He will also travel to South Korea.

“We can lead the charge in forging this trusted supply chain relationship with nations that will contribute to the longstanding great relationship that we have, but add to our growth together … in a world where we need to do more with our friends,” he said at a news conference with Micron Executive Vice President Manish Bhatia and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel.

They planned to meet later in the day with Japanese semiconductor executives —Youngkin hopes to attract more chip makers to the state.

Micron, a leading semiconductor maker, is in the midst of a $3 billion expansion of a computer chips factory in Manassas, Virginia. It also has a factory in Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s electoral constituency of Hiroshima and is the largest foreign direct investor in Japan, said Micron’s Bhatia.

Youngkin has adopted an increasingly hard line against China. He disclosed in January that he scuttled an effort by Virginia to land a large electric vehicle battery plant, an initiative between Ford Motor Co. and a Chinese company that is setting up in Michigan instead. The governor’s administration labeled the project a “front” for the Chinese Communist Party that would raise national security concerns.

Youngkin said Virginia is home to more than 130 Japanese companies already and he hoped to forge new partnerships particularly in semiconductors and other critical sectors “where our supply chains have to be built with trusted partners.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris also met with Japanese semiconductor companies during a visit in September.

“Hopefully, today’s meeting will conclude more agreements and therefore benefit not only the state of Virginia people but our people, our two nations and our security that is so critical to this semiconductor space,” Emanuel said.

Youngkin said he also met with leaders in other industries such as pharmaceuticals and automakers.

The governor, a former CEO of the Carlyle Group, sidestepped questions about a presidential run, saying “My focus is making sure we advance Virginia’s economic interests and can forge these most trusted supply chains with our friends and allies around the world.”

East Asia has become a popular destination for U.S. politicians angling for investments and foreign policy experience.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Japan earlier in the week to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and other officials as part of his four-nation trade mission seen as an attempt by the expected Republican presidential candidate to improve his diplomatic profile.

Emanuel noted a series of visits to Japan by U.S. governors in the last year looking for investment and stronger supply chains following the disruptions brought on by the pandemic. Such trips can help ensure “that your state has trusted investors and partners that will be part of that future. So you’re not caught off guard again,” he said.

The visits by leaders of both parties dovetail with the Biden administration’s push to build supply chains among allied countries and reduce dependence on China.

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Associated Press video journalist Haruka Nuga contributed to this report.

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