Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen announced on August 28, 2020 that the country plans to lift restrictions on some imports of US pork and beef. Tsai’s order—set to go into effect in 2021—is a welcome development for New Mexico, whose cattle industry has been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Mexico has a long history of ranching, and livestock continues to contribute to a significant portion of the state’s economy, with over 1.5 million heads of cattle as of January 2020. Demand for beef and dairy products plummeted earlier this year after restaurants closed in compliance with public health orders, and several meat processing plants shut down due to outbreaks of COVID-19, leaving ranchers struggling to sell cattle as prices remained below the break-even mark. Although Taiwan’s easing of import restrictions will not take effect until January 1 next year, it still presents a beacon of hope for the New Mexico cattle industry, which would be devastated if a second COVID outbreak occurs in the fall.
Beyond agricultural exports, Taiwan and New Mexico enjoy a vibrant relationship with strong economic ties. Taiwan is New Mexico’s largest source of investment from the Indo-Pacific: since 2003, Taiwanese greenfield projects have invested $108 million into the state’s economy, contributing to the creation of 475 jobs.
The New Mexican state government is investing heavily in its relationship with the country and its efforts have produced notable investment deals. Former Governor Susana Martinez visited Taiwan for a week in summer 2018. Following her visit, Taiwanese manufacturer Admiral Capital announced its expansion of operations into Santa Teresa, New Mexico, investing $50 million into a new facility that is expected to employ up to 350 people. This year, another Taiwanese manufacturing company, Xxentria, declared plans to relocate a distribution factory to the state, with construction anticipated to begin in 2021. According to New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Alicia J. Keyes, Xxentria’s relocation will bring 35 new jobs and will likely to create more in the future.
Michelle Huang is a Research Intern with the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a final-year undergraduate studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at the University of Oxford.