In September, the Taiwan Agricultural Goodwill Mission sent its largest ever delegation to visit the United States and reaffirm agricultural trade ties. In Washington, DC, they were met by an equally impressive group from all over America: 15 legislators in total, including Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), Rep. Steve King (R-IA), Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS), Rep. Aumua Amata Cole Radewagen (R-AS), Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ).
The stated goal of the Mission was to demonstrate how much “Taiwan values its economic and agricultural relations with the United States.” They proved just that, signing an agreement with three American grain associations to purchase $3 billion in grains between 2018 and 2019, including 5 million tons of corn, 3 million tons of soybeans and 2 million tons of wheat. After the ceremony, the delegation separated into two groups to visit local grain producers in Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, and North Dakota.
The trip also marks an important opportunity for Taiwanese importers to better understand the benefits of US grains, as well as how they are produced. The US Grains Council (USGC) emphasized the value it places on Taiwan, noting, “The US Grains Council has worked in Taiwan for more than four decades and has watched Taiwan grow into one of our largest customers. The Goodwill Mission helps us maintain a healthy trading relationship with Taiwanese buyers by providing continued confidence in the US market.”
Taiwan imported $3.4 billion worth of US agricultural products in 2016 alone. The 2017 Mission only represents the latest in a long trend, with ten goodwill missions visiting America from 1998 to 2016, while a total of $28 billion worth of US grains were imported. Organizations like the USGC have reciprocated these missions with visits to Taiwan, signs that US-Taiwan ties will only continue to expand.
Savannah Shih is a research intern at the East-West Center and a graduate student of Asian Studies at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.