Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Embarks on Four-Nation Trade Mission

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis embarked on a four-nation tour, starting with a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo to discuss boosting defense spending and exploring opportunities for collaboration and direct flight routes between Florida and Japan.[0] The meeting was the first leg of DeSantis’s trade mission, which includes stops in South Korea, Israel, and the United Kingdom.[0] During the meeting, Kishida discussed the role of the U.S.-Japan alliance in securing global peace and security, emphasizing the importance of strengthening the Japan-U.S. relationship.[1] DeSantis praised Japan’s efforts to ramp up its defense capabilities and hailed Kishida’s decision to increase Japan’s defense spending in the face of mounting military threats from neighbors such as China and North Korea.[2]

DeSantis’s trade mission aims to build on existing economic relationships and expand partnerships Florida has over.[0] The Florida economy has received investments worth billions from over 200 Japanese firms, with representatives from leading corporations participating in a roundtable discussion. For Japanese companies seeking expansion into the Southeastern US and the Latin America and Caribbean region, Florida’s advantageous position makes it a convenient base.[0] Florida has attracted investments worth over $5.2 billion from Japan, making it the sixth biggest foreign investor in the state.[3] More than 22,000 Floridians are employed by over 200 Japanese companies operating in Florida.

DeSantis also visited Israel, where he delivered keynote addresses before a crowd of 400 participants, including around 120 U.S. Jewish philanthropists, at a conference co-sponsored by the Jerusalem Post and the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem. He spoke about “the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship – especially in difficult times.” During the trip, DeSantis also delivered an address for an event entitled “Celebrate the Faces of Israel.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that he would meet with DeSantis during the governor’s visit this week.[4]

DeSantis was criticized earlier this year for delving into U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine, saying the “territorial dispute” between Ukraine and Russia was not a vital U.S. national interest.[5] His remark that support for Ukraine was not of “vital” national interest set off alarm bells among hawkish Republicans in Congress before the governor backtracked and called Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal.[6]

DeSantis’s trade mission is being funded by an organization that fellow Republicans have been trying to eliminate, raising questions about whether at least some taxpayer money will be used for his ambitious round-the-world trip to Japan, South Korea, Israel, and the United Kingdom.[7] Republican Florida House Speaker Paul Renner reiterated his desire to eliminate Enterprise Florida, the organization funding the trip, for the tax breaks it offers to only some corporations.[8]

DeSantis’s visit to Japan, South Korea, Israel, and the United Kingdom is an opportunity for the Florida Republican to step onto the international stage for the first time as a likely presidential contender. Although he denied he was a candidate, DeSantis is seen as former President Donald Trump’s biggest potential challenger for the 2024 GOP nomination.[9]

0. “In Japan, DeSantis unveils partnership between Florida universities and Tokyo-based NTT Data” The Capitolist, 24 Apr. 2023, https://thecapitolist.com/in-japan-desantis-unveils-partnership-between-florida-universities-and-tokyo-based-ntt-data

1. “Likely U.S. presidential hopeful DeSantis meets Japan’s Kishida” Nikkei Asia, 24 Apr. 2023, https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Likely-U.S.-presidential-hopeful-DeSantis-meets-Japan-s-Kishida

2. “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis shrugs off 2024 questions on first stop of overseas trip” Axios, 25 Apr. 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/04/24/desantis-trip-japan-2024

3. “DeSantis touts Florida economy and net migration in courting Japanese businesses” The Center Square, 25 Apr. 2023, https://www.thecentersquare.com/florida/article_86facef8-e3a7-11ed-ae52-8bdd432f54cd.html

4. “Ahead of Israel trip, DeSantis faces pressure to address antisemitism” Jewish Insider, 25 Apr. 2023, https://jewishinsider.com/2023/04/desantis-florida-governor-israel-antisemitism-hate-crimes-bill

5. “DeSantis to meet UK foreign secretary with eye on US presidential bid” The Guardian US, 21 Apr. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/apr/21/desantis-to-meet-cleverly-in-london-with-eye-on-us-presidential-bid

6. “Ron DeSantis, facing challenges at home, will test presidential ambitions overseas” KRDO, 24 Apr. 2023, https://krdo.com/national-politics/2023/04/24/ron-desantis-facing-challenges-at-home-will-test-presidential-ambitions-overseas-2

7. “Ron DeSantis’ trip abroad funded by group despised by Florida GOP” NBC News, 25 Apr. 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2024-election/ron-desantis-trip-abroad-funded-group-despised-florida-gop-rcna81173

8. “Ron DeSantis’ trip abroad funded by group long despised by some Florida Republicans” Yahoo Life, 25 Apr. 2023, https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/ron-desantis-trip-abroad-funded-035239924.html

9. “Virginia GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin dodges 2024 questions as he gears up for Asia trip” CNBC, 21 Apr. 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/04/21/glenn-youngkin-2024-speculation-asia-trip.html

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