While President Obama was in Asia recently, he was not the only representative of the US government traveling through the region. Concurrent to his trip, nine members of the US House of Representatives also traveled to Japan, South Korea, and China. The congressional delegation consisted of eight Republicans and one Democrat. Rep. Eric Cantor (VA-7), Rep. Paul Ryan (WI-1), Rep. Pat Meehan (PA-7), Rep. Mac Thornberry (TX-13), Rep. Kay Granger (TX-12), Rep. Kristi Noem (SD-At Large), Rep. Aaron Schock (IL-18), and Rep. Paul Cook (CA-8) represented the Republican party on the trip, while Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2) was the only Democrat in the delegation. These nine Members of Congress represent a broad swath of America, and also represent an array of important House committees – the Budget Committee, the Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protections, and Security Technologies Subcommittee, the Armed Services Committee, the State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, the Ways and Means Committee, the Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and the Homeland Security Committee were all well represented by this delegation.
Upon their return, the eight Republican members of the delegation jointly authored an op-ed for CNN in which they advocated for strong US engagement in Asia. They cite the strong US economic gains to be made through increased and improved cooperation with Asian nations as reason to pursue the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They also called for maintaining robust military capabilities throughout the Asia-Pacific region, to ensure regional security and stability. In closing their piece, they noted that both Democrats and Republicans have called for a strong US-Asia relationship going forward.
Every congressional district represented by these nine members has strong ties to Asia. Randolph-Macon College in Virginia’s seventh district has exchange partnerships with 17 universities across Asia, and 27% of export-dependent jobs in the district are supported by exports to Asia. Wisconsin’s first district exported over $779 million in goods to Asia in 2012, which supported 24% of the district’s export-dependent jobs. Pennsylvania’s seventh district saw a 38% increase in jobs supported by exports to Asia between 2007 and 2012. Texas’s twelfth district had $590 million in services exports to Asia in 2011, and the state’s thirteenth district sent over $1.4 billion in goods exports to Asia in 2012. South Dakota’s grain industry alone was responsible for $1.35 billion in exports to Asia in 2012, supporting 51% of the state’s export-dependent jobs. The eighteenth district of Illinois has seen tremendous growth in its economic relationship with Asia, as its goods exports to the region went up 127% between 2007 and 2012, mirrored by a 120% rise in jobs supported by those exports. In California’s eighth district, 44% of all goods exports went to Asia in 2012, worth nearly $500 million to the local economy. The second district of Hawai’i has seen an 86% growth in jobs supported by exports to Asia between 2007 and 2012, and earned over $350 million in revenues from tourism by visitors from Asia in 2011.
The growing importance of Asia is apparent in all US states and congressional districts. The Asia Matters for America initiative of the East-West Center, of which this website is a part, has created summaries that are available here that profile every aspect of the US-Asia relationship for each state and district.