- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is preparing to go overseas for a trade conference between officials from Japan and the southeastern United States.

Bryant’s spokesman said the governor will attend the 37th annual meeting of the Southeast U.S./Japan and the Japan-U.S. Southeast Associations, or SEUS-Japan. Bryant will leave Monday for the meeting, which begins Sept. 18, and will return Sept. 20.

William Yates III, president and CEO of Mississippi-based Yates Construction, is co-chairman of the meeting and will lead the state delegation with Bryant.

State figures show Japan is the biggest foreign investor in Mississippi, with Nissan and Toyota auto assembly plants, plus a tire plant Yokohama is building in West Point. Yokohama and Nissan combined announced $550 million in new investment in Mississippi in 2013, Mississippi Development Authority spokesman Jeff Rent said.

Yates said in a news release that the meeting allows officials and business people to form trade and investment relationships that could help Mississippi and Japan.

“We are reinforcing to Japanese business leaders the high level of importance we place on the strong, existing ties Mississippi has in place with Japan,” he said. “It also allows us to demonstrate our desire in forging new trade and investment relationships that will be beneficial for both Mississippi and Japan for many years to come.”

Mississippi hosted the 2013 conference in Biloxi, and as part of those duties agreed to lead the U.S. delegation to Japan this year.

“While in Tokyo the governor and the delegation will have the opportunity to meet with many Japanese business leaders and companies as we seek to strengthen relations with our Japanese partners and create new investment opportunities,” Rent said.

MDA spokeswoman Marlo Dorsey said most of the expenses for the trip are being paid with private donations. Mississippi will send a 27-person delegation, including MDA Executive Director Brent Christensen, three other Mississippi-based MDA employees and two workers from MDA’s Japanese office. Also attending will be first lady Deborah Bryant and representatives of three universities and the Port of Gulfport.

Next year’s conference of the seven-state group will be in Alabama.

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