U.S. Senate confirms Bill Hagerty as U.S. ambassador to Japan

The U.S. Senate voted 82-12 today to confirm President Trump’s nomination of William “Bill” Hagerty, formerly commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, as U.S. ambassador to Japan.

Tennessee’s two U.S. senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, both praised Hagerty in Senate floor speeches. Here’s text of their remarks, as provided by their communications staff:

From Sen. Alexander:

I’m here today to strongly and respectfully recommend that the Senate approve the president’s nomination of Bill Hagerty as ambassador to Japan.

In 2013, when Bill Hagerty was the commissioner of economic development for Tennessee, he gave a speech entirely in Japanese at the American embassy in Tokyo. Now, I’ve looked it up, there have been 16 United States Ambassadors to Tokyo, a very distinguished group since World War II: a five star general, 2 former Senate Majority Leaders, a former Vice President of the United States, and a former Speaker of the House, the daughter of a former president, and so far as I know, none of them were able to do what Bill Hagerty did in 2013 when he made a speech entirely in Japanese’s at the American Embassy in Tokyo.

That’s just one reason why I think Bill Hagerty is one of President Trump’s best appointments.

He was born in Tennessee, graduated from Vanderbilt University, he was associate editor of the law review, he worked as a consultant for the Boston Consulting Group. During his final 3 years there he lived in Tokyo and he served as senior executive managing their clients around Asia.

He was selected by President George H.W. Bush to be on his staff, there he worked on trade, commerce, defense, and telecommunications issues.

He was a White House fellow.

He was founder and chairman of a company in private life that became the third largest medical research company.

He founded his own private equity and investment firm.

From 2011-2015 he was the commissioner of economic and community development for Tennessee and in that role. Working with Governor Haslam, secured $15 billion in investments and 90,000 jobs for our state. 2 of those years Tennessee was the number 1 state for economic development and number 1 state for job creation through Foreign Direct Investment.

He is a distinguished Eagle Scout, he was head of a capital campaign for the scouts.

He served on the board for the Far East Council of the scouts, encouraging growth of Boy Scouts throughout Asia.

One way he intends to continue that mission is that his two sons will join their respective troops in Japan following his confirmation.

And, his wife Chrissy would want me to quickly add that there are two aspiring Girl Scouts in their family who will have their time to do that too.

It’s not only one of the best appointments but one of most important.

There’s a reason why we’ve had such a distinguished list of ambassadors since World War II including our former majority leader Howard Baker from Tennessee.

Mike Mansfield, another former majority leader who was ambassador, used to say in every speech he made that the Japanese-American alliance is the most important two-country relationship in the world bar none.

Ambassador Mansfield said that so often that Americans in Tokyo used to refer to our embassy as the “Bar-None Ranch.”

If you’ll permit a little parochialism Mr. Hagerty comes from a state, Tennessee that has the most important relationship with Japan of any state, bar none.

That began about 40 years ago, I remember President Carter saying to me as a new governor and to the other governors, “go to Japan, persuade them to make here what they sell here.”

Off we all went, during my first 24 months as governor I spent 3 weeks in Japan and 8 weeks on Japan-American relations. I explained to Tennesseans that I thought I could do more good for our state in Japan than I could in Washington, D.C.

That turned out to be true, Nissan, Bridgestone, Komatsu, other companies came.

By the mid-80s we had about 10% of all the Japanese capital investment in the United States, this has continued, Nissan and Bridgestone have North America’s largest auto plants, tire plants in Tennessee.

And, with Mr. Hagerty’s help, Bridgestone as well as Nissan has decided to locate its North American headquarters in our state.

So, Bill Hagerty, if approved by the Senate, would go to Japan not only able to speak the language but having lived and worked there, an understanding how close ties between Japan and United States can create bigger paychecks for Americans as well as for the Japanese.

My hope is that the Senate will promptly approve his nomination and that he will soon be on his job and his children will be in their respective scout troops in Japan.

From Sen. Corker:

“I thank my friend and our senior senator, Lamar Alexander, for his eloquent comments about this great nominee, and I also want to thank him again, as I do many times, for the outstanding relationship he developed with Japan that’s borne so much fruit for our citizens and our state and so many states across the southeast. So, thank you so much for that. 

“I rise today also to offer my strong support for the nomination of Bill Hagerty to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Japan. 

“Bill is one of the most outstanding appointments that President Trump has made, and his confirmation is long overdue. 

“The relationship between the United States and Japan speaks for itself, and hosting Prime Minister Abe as one of the first visitors speaks to how the Trump administration and our country feel about Japan. 

“As a fellow Tennessean, I have had the privilege of knowing Bill Hagerty and his family on a personal level. 

“I have seen him in business and the outstanding things he has done there. I’ve seen him represent our state as commissioner of economic development and cause it to be one of the most heralded states in the country relative to job creation; and much of that had to do with his ability to deal with other governments around the world and cause them to be attracted to our state. 

“I also know that he and his wife, Chrissy, actually met in Japan, so this is an exciting time and sort of a homecoming for their family. 

“There’s no one more well-suited to fill this important role, and I know that our nation will benefit from Bill’s leadership and experience as he carries the tremendous legacy of U.S. ambassadors to Japan, including the late Howard Baker, another fellow Tennessean. 

“I am really, really proud of this nomination and know that Bill will represent the very best of our country during his service in Japan. 

“I strongly urge my colleagues to support this confirmation.

“This is long overdue, and I know he will be going to Japan at a time when we truly need an ambassador with his capacity.

“Thank you so much, and I yield the floor.”

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