Iowa, Hebei Sister State Visit Wraps Up

US & CHINA - North China's Hebei province and the Midwestern state of Iowa signed a total of 20 memorandums of understanding in trade and investment on Tuesday as the culmination of a three-day celebration of their sister state relationship participated in by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
calendar icon 23 October 2013
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The MOUs, valued at $1.5 billion, cover a wide range of fields — agriculture, trade, education, animal husbandry, machinery, cable, new energy, building materials, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and light industry.

Meanwhile, Hebei provincial Party Secretary Zhou Benshun and Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad inked a pact to further strengthen the bilateral strategic cooperation between the two states in a 100-minute long ceremony at the Principal Financial Group corporate headquarters in downtown Des Moines.

A symposium on agriculture, focusing on sustainable development of grain production and agri-ecological protection and fertilizer use was held following the signing ceremony.

Among the trade and investment deals, the Hebei Huayu Poultry Breeding Co signed a letter of intent with Des Moines-based Hy-Line International for a joint venture project valued at $371 million. The venture is not only going to build a breeding facility for high-quality egg chickens developed by the Hy-Line International, but will also include a research and development center and a vocational school.

Hy-Line executives told Mr Benshun during his visit to Hy-Line Tuesday morning that China, which is already a major egg consumer in the world, will become even more significant to the company as the living standards of the average Chinese improve.

Hebei, with a population of 72 million, embraces the two major Chinese municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin. The total population in the region is around 120 million.

Another MOU includes the Hebei Qimei Agriculture Science and Technology Co, which will invest in an organic farm in Iowa.

Both Mr Benshun and Governor Brandstad witnessed the signing ceremony after they signed a pact to further their state ties. Hebei ranks sixth among the 31 Chinese provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in terms of GDP.

It is the first time Hebei has sent a delegation as large as 200 people to a sister state, partly because the relationship carries special weight following Chinese President Xi Jinping's return visit to Iowa in 2012 as China's vice-president. He had first visited Iowa in 1985 on his first trip to the US.

The high-profile trip last year made international news and also made Iowa and its city Muscatine, where President Xi stayed for two nights in 1985, popular in China and the world.

Mr Benshun said on Tuesday that he feels very much at home in Iowa.

He said Iowa is a key state as Hebei seeks more cooperation with the United States. Mr Benshun said with Iowa's advanced agriculture, education, technology and culture, and Hebei's huge market demand and its status as a large agricultural and industrial province, the prospects for cooperation looked very bright.

He hoped the two sisters could further expand their high-level exchanges, promote cooperation in a wide range of areas from modern agriculture, energy saving and environmental protection to education, and further boost people-to-people exchanges.

President Xi also sent a congratulatory letter to the 30th anniversary celebration. In it he praised the sister-state relationship between Hebei and Iowa as a model for sub-national practical cooperation between China and the US. He also praised the relationship as bringing real benefits to people on both sides.

Hebei and Iowa have sent a total of 40 groups back and forth to foster the relationship over the last three decades. Meanwhile, more than 100 teachers from Iowa universities have taught at universities and high schools in Hebei, while Hebei has also started to send teachers and students to Iowa.

Mr Benshun got a real feel of the cooperation when he attended a breakfast meeting at Drake University in Des Moines on Tuesday and toured the campus. Both students and professors there have taken part in education exchange programs with Hebei.

Governor Brandstad, who visited China in April to mark the anniversary, including holding an Iowa Week in Hebei, recalled the fond memory of Xi's visit to Iowa in 1985, when he was the youngest governor in the US.

He marveled at the dramatic changes in China since his first visit there in 1984. The steam-powered train he took in 1984 had been replaced by bullet train.

"We're very excited about this relationship, and we're even more excited about the potential of this relationship," said Governor Brandstad.

China is now Iowa's fourth-largest export market, with one in four rows of soybeans grown in Iowa being sold to China.

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