June 2014 has been a hot month for trade missions to Asia, as several U.S. states sent high-level officials overseas to establish relationships to improve access for their communities in Asia’s rapidly growing markets. In all, six states sent representatives, including Wyoming, Tennessee, Maine, Missouri, Washington, and Indiana.
A delegation from Wyoming, made up of representatives from the Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs and the leadership of Wyoming’s House of Representatives, traveled to three Chinese provinces from June 6th through June 17th. While meeting with counterparts in the provinces of Shanxi, Ningxia and Shaanxi, the delegation studied China’s coal conversion processes and established relationships to facilitate greater cooperation in the future.
From June 14th through June 19th, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam conducted a trade mission to South Korea and Japan, where he participated in a business reception with 90 Japanese companies at the U.S. embassy in Tokyo and toured Hankook Tires in Seoul.
Maine Governor Paul LePage returned home on June 26th after a 6 day business trip to China, where he met with executives from North China Industries (NORINCO) to discuss partnership over a rail car manufacturing operation at a former Air Force base in Limestone, Maine.
On her first trade mission to Asia, Indiana Lieutenant (Lt.) Governor Sue Ellspermann visited Japan, South Korea and Taiwan from June 16th through June 28th. With the goal of improving the access of Indiana’s agricultural products in foreign markets, Lt. Governor Ellspermann visited the Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Mitsubishi International Corporation, which invests in the Indiana Packers Corporation. While visiting Indiana’s sister state, Tochigi Prefecture, she toured JET Farm, one of the largest dairy and beef farms in Japan, and met with government officials. Arriving in South Korea on June 19th, Lt. Governor Ellspermann met with the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) and toured the Cargill animal feed mill at the Pyungtaek Dangjin Harbor foreign investment zone, the largest feed mill in the world.
During her final stop in Taiwan, Lt. Governor Ellspermann signed three memoranda of understanding (MOUs) to promote trade between Indiana’s hardwood industry and their Taiwanese counterparts. At Taiwan’s international food show, Indiana’s popcorn and ice cream garnered a lot of interest from hungry patrons. According to Indiana State Department of Agriculture director Ted McKinney, “There is definitely a hunger for Indiana-branded products. For me that was the real aha moment. […] There is definitely market opportunity here [in Asia].”
While in Taiwan, Lt. Governor Ellspermann was joined by trade delegations from Washington and Missouri, led by Lt. Governors Brad Owen and Peter Kinder, respectively. Lt. Governor Owen signed an agreement between the Washington Department of Licensing and Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei to streamline citizens’ ability to drive in the other’s communities. He also joined a delegation of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians to promote their seafood products in Taiwan.
These trade missions from across the U.S. demonstrate the growing awareness by local governments that Asian markets are, and will continue to be, a boon for U.S. products.