Gov. Mike Leavitt was thinking about protocol as he headed home Saturday from his first trade mission to South Korea and Japan.
"I learned a great deal from the way we were received," he said in a telephone interview after arriving back in Salt Lake City. "There are lots of things we can improve on when it comes to how we deal with our guests."Leavitt recalled a declaration-signing ceremony in his office this past October with officials from the Gifu Prefecture, Utah's sister state in Japan. It was routine, he said, and like most declaration signings, ignored by the media.
The same event Friday in the Gifu Prefecture, however, attracted five national newspapers and 10 television stations. A color photograph of the two state leaders appears on the front page of a major newspaper.
"There was a sense of bigness about it that we had not achieved," the governor said. And it likely wasn't the only time during the trip that Leavitt felt he was treated with more regard than Utah had shown his counterpart.
At the Japanese headquarters of Seino Co. Ltd., one of the world's largest trucking firms, workers lined up along the entrance and bowed as the governor and his party passed by on their way to meet with company officials.
Leavitt said he also saw the significance the business communities in South Korea and Japan attach to meetings between the heads of those nations' largest companies and American leaders.
"The fact that they would meet with us sends a very important signal to the business communities," he said. He met with the head of a computer company in South Korea and the heads of Toyota, Mitsubishi and Toshiba in Japan.
"There are cultural differences," Leavitt said. "We in the United States tend to think of ourselves as the world. We are clearly the world leader, but there are very powerful economies out there."
The message he hopes to convey after his seven-day trip is that Utahns must become aware of the emerging world marketplace - and the advantages the state has to offer overseas customers.
"We need to become more global in our views. That needs to start in our schools and in our business communities," the governor said. "Utah has a disproportionate economic influence."
The strength of Utah's business ties to Asia is what he calls the state's "alumni" - a group of business leaders in South Korea and other Asian countries who studied at Utah universities.
"They feel an overwhelming gratitude toward Utah and an allegiance," the governor said. "So much of their culture is based on trust and relationships."
Leavitt served as head of a delegation of some 35 representatives of Utah companies on one of the state Department of Community and Economic Development's regularly scheduled trade missions to the Pacific Rim.
The governor's presence is "a prerequisite to business being done in those markets," Leavitt said. "If a governor is unwilling to do that, then it essentially closes the door on businesses opening those markets."
He said he intends to travel overseas several times a year on similar trade missions, especially after crossing paths with the governors of Montana and Maine on this trip.
"It's become part of the role of the modern governor to start reaching out into these global markets. Frankly, if you're not doing this, you're not doing your job," Leavitt said.