Iowa's Gov Reynolds Kicks Off China Farm Mission

CHINA - Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is leading a trade mission to China that will feature officials from groups representing the state's major agricultural producers.
calendar icon 21 July 2017
clock icon 5 minute read

"We believe as a united Iowa agricultural delegation, we can find opportunities that are beneficial to both China and Iowa," Governor Reynolds said.

"Relationships are especially important in China and we are fortunate that Governor Branstad welcomed a then local agricultural official from China over 30 years ago into Iowa named Xi Jinping who is now the nation's president."
Kim Reynolds, Governor of Iowa

Ms Reynolds said the 10-day trip, which began Wednesday, will be significant because all of Iowa's farm groups have not previously gone on an overseas trade mission together.

"We will have representatives from our corn, soybean, beef, egg, poultry, dairy and turkey sectors seeking an opportunity to expand their footprint in China as the country's middle class grows," she said.

Governor Reynolds, who earlier this year succeeded Terry Branstad as governor when he became the US ambassador to China on 22 May, noted that the agricultural economy "is the backbone of Iowa's economy and contributes about $112 billion to our economy annually."

Last year, nearly $6 billion worth of American pork was exported to China, including more than $1 billion from Iowa.

Meetings are planned for the delegation with Chinese government officials, industry partners and Mr Branstad in Beijing, Shanghai and Xi'an.

"Relationships are especially important in China and we are fortunate that Governor Branstad welcomed a then local agricultural official from China over 30 years ago into Iowa named Xi Jinping who is now the nation's president," said Ms Reynolds.

President Xi famously visited Iowa in 1985.

Even though Iowa is best known for its agricultural products and services, Ms Reynolds said that advanced manufacturing is "actually the largest sector of our GDP. Agriculture of course drives a lot of that."

Ms Reynolds is hopeful that another trade mission will go to China later to tout the state's manufacturing capabilities.

When Mr Branstad was receiving a Chinese trade delegation in March, he told the visitors that he would like to be able to enjoy a bite of American beef at the US embassy in Beijing.

His wish came true on 30 June when Mr Branstad, along with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, cut a prime rib from Nebraska in Beijing to celebrate the return of US beef to China after 13 years.

US beef had been banned from China since 2004 due to mad cow disease, and the recent lifting of the ban marked one of the latest positive developments between the US and China.

Branstad's appointment as a result of his and Iowa's long-standing "cornfield diplomacy" with President Xi and China has excited the people of Iowa since he was nominated in January.

Iowa's ties with China were already showing signs of increasing.

According to Allen Williams, the business development manager at the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the state has had more inquiries from China in recent months than in the previous two to three years.

The Des Moines Greater Partnership, the largest chamber of commerce in Iowa, began to pursue the relationship with China more aggressively after the nomination, said its international trade manager Ryan Carroll.

While more Chinese are coming to Iowa, Iowa is also going to China.

"There is no better time than now to market and pitch our products in China," Ms Reynolds, Iowa's first female governor, said last month when announcing the trip. "Our relationship with the country is strong, and their growing middle class means increasing purchasing power, and Iowa stands to gain significantly as a result."

Before his arrival in Beijing, the US embassy released a greeting video from Branstad, who mentioned his first trip to China in 1984.

"What most people don't know is that he visited the Great Wall in 1984 and got a little piece of paper certifying that he climbed to the top of the Great Wall. He used to have it displayed in the governor's office. It's just a little piece of tourism souvenir, but it shows how much he values China," said Swallow Yan, founder and president of US Education Without Borders and executive director of the Chinese Association of Iowa.

Mr Yan worked with Mr Branstad when he was the president of Des Moines University and campaigned for him when he was running for governor.

"I think Branstad is having a positive influence on President Trump when it comes to the China-US relationship. Many are divided on Trump's various issues, but even people who strongly disagree with Trump liked his choice of Branstad as the ambassador to China," said Mr Yan, mentioning Trump's last visit to Iowa as proof.

In June, President Trump visited Iowa for the first time as president.

"Ambassador Branstad will be a very good communicator to lubricate the relations despite that he has no prior experience in international relations. He will impact the relationship in a positive way because he has what we call 'Iowa nice'," said Mr Yan.

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