When last year’s SEUS-Japan Alliance conference was postponed for a year in the thick of the pandemic, hopes were high that an in-person summit could be achieved in Tokyo this fall.
Surely after hosting the postponed summer Olympic Games, the reasoning went, the Japanese capital would be ready for a few hundred business and government delegates from around the Southeastern United States.
Not quite a year later, however, the Japan has banned foreign spectators from the Olympics as COVID-19 cases continue to climb, and the country has been criticized for a relatively vaccine rollout that remains relatively slow, even while picking up stream in recent weeks. Only 8.2 percent of the Japanese population has been at least partially inoculated, compared to more than half of Americans.
The U.S. State Department raised its travel warning from Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) to Level 4 (Do Not Travel) May 24, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended even vaccinated Americans avoid travel to Japan (which remains closed to foreign visitors anyway) due to concern over the emergence of coronavirus variants.
With all this in view, the coalition of states and Japanese business leaders decided this week to call off the in-person event scheduled for mid-October and shift it to a virtual summit.
“Given the ongoing uncertainty around the pandemic path and vaccine access in countries around the world, the Alliance is considering plans to hold a virtual event in the fall that highlights the importance of the Southeast U.S. – Japan partnership. We will share more details in the coming weeks,” said Mary Waters, Georgia’s deputy commissioner for trade, who represents the state in the alliance.
Georgia hosted 42nd iteration of the annual SEUS-Japan conference in 2019, a gathering that focused on issues like potential automotive tariffs and the need for creative solutions to solve workforce issues at the hundreds of Japanese firms spread across Georgia and the South. It was last hosted in Tokyo in 2018.
“Georgia is proud that we were able to hold the most recent SEUS Japan conference in 2019 in Savannah, where we hosted political and business leaders from Japan and across the Southeast Region,” Ms. Waters told Global Atlanta. “Japan is consistently a top investment and trading partner for our state, and the relationships forged through Georgia’s involvement in SEUS Japan are fundamental to the ongoing success of our bilateral partnership.”
Global Atlanta will share new details on the conference as they emerge.