Wyoming Governor Matt Mead shakes hands with Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou during his recent trade mission to Asia. Image: Office of Governor Matt Mead

Autumn in Asia: Governors Harvest Investments on Trade Missions

ASEAN Japan Korea China Taiwan

In September and October, governors of six US states traveled to Asian countries to promote economic ties. Trade missions from Texas, Wyoming, Iowa, Utah, Montana, and Virginia found their way to China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Taiwan. The governors of Wyoming and Iowa are up for re-election in 2014, which may have had some bearing on the timing of their trips. While they all had similar timing, each trade mission had a different sectoral focus depending on the major exports of the states.

Agriculture was the main emphasis for Iowa and Virginia. The US Grains Council (USGC) escorted three Iowa producers, funded by the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, to Vietnam and Taiwan to meet with importers of US corn and co-products. Trade with China has been a priority for Governor McAuliffe of Virginia, just as it was a priority for Governor McDonnell before him. The Governor happily reported home that he had half a dozen handshake agreements by just the middle of his trip. In addition to China, McAuliffe also visited South Korea and Japan.

Governors of Texas, Utah, and Montana traveled to China seeking business opportunities and foreign direct investment for their states. Governor Perry of Texas signed a memorandum of understanding to recognize the importance of expanded economic and cultural ties with the city of Tianjin and the provinces Fujian, Jiangsu, Shandong and Sichuan. Utah’s total exports to China in 2013 were $6.9 billion, about 40% of the state’s total exports, a number they sought to increase during this year’s trip. Governor Steve Bullock from Montana discussed everything from beef and bourbon exports to attracting Asian tourists to Montana’s many ski resorts.

Governor Matt Mead of Wyoming led a trade delegation to Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan with a focus on energy exports. In 2012, the vast majority of Wyoming’s exports to Asia consisted of basic chemicals and general purpose machinery, with energy exports notably lacking from the list. Governor Mead showcased his state’s coal and natural gas in meetings with electric and power companies in each of the three Asian countries. Wyoming Business Council CEO Shawn Reese and Taiwan External Trade Development Council President and CEO Huang In-Jung signed an MOU to formalize the two agencies’ mutual efforts to increase economic ties.

Ethan Kannel is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a junior at Cornell University. Melissa Newcomb recently graduated from American University SIS and is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington.