‘Extremely important for us to have good, strong free trade partners’ - Chris Lytle

Oakland, Calif. – Port of Oakland Executive Director Chris Lytle this week called for strengthening business ties with Japan. Addressing visitors from the Japanese Port of Hakata, Oakland’s boss listed opportunities for growth at sea and in the air.

“It’s extremely critical for us to have good, strong free trade partners such as Japan,” Mr. Lytle told a visiting delegation of 20 from the city of Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu. “Japan is a very large and very important part of our business.”

The Executive Director’s remarks yesterday came on the 30th anniversary of a sister port relationship between Oakland and Hakata. Japan is Oakland’s second-largest ocean trading partner after China, with containerized trade between the two totaling $2.6 billion in 2017.

“Everything from machinery to lithium batteries for electric cars is imported to Oakland from Japan,” Mr. Lytle said. “This is very high-value cargo and we would like to see it grow.”

New developments coming on line at the Port of Oakland should accelerate ocean trade with Japan, Mr. Lytle said. That could happen as soon as August when a $90 million refrigerated distribution center called Cool Port Oakland opens. Cool Port meat shipments to Asia could reach 50,000 containers annually, Mr. Lytle said. Much of that would be destined for Japan.

In addition to increased trade volume, the Executive Director made a pitch for Oakland-Japan air travel. The Port of Oakland operates Oakland International Airport, California’s fourth-largest airport. Oakland has 13 international destinations, but none are in Asia, Mr. Lytle pointed out.

“A strong business case can be made for flights to Japan,” he said. “The pressure is on us to make this happen.”