International trade is a critical contributor to economic prosperity in Iowa. Many Iowa companies sell products and services abroad. The export of farm goods is an important component of the trade picture. Analysts estimate that every third row of Iowa crops is destined for a market outside the United States.
Both during his current term as governor, and during his earlier tenure in that office, Gov. Terry Branstad has worked hard to build a strong trade relationship with China.
Dramatic evidence of the ongoing success of those initiatives was announced this week. According to The Associated Press, 20 cooperative trade agreements have just been signed between Iowa companies and counterparts in Hebei, a province in northern China. This is the latest in a series of positive developments in a relationship that has been evolving for three decades. According to information provided to the AP by the Iowa Economic Development Authority the value of these just-revealed business relationships totals approximately $1 billion.
China is rapidly becoming one of Iowa's most significant markets. In the last year, the Hawkeye State has exported in excess of $751 billion in assorted products to this giant, booming economy.
Branstad has played a key role in ensuring that Iowa's ties with China grow. Our governor and state have important personal and professional ties to Xi Jinping, the new president of China.
Xi visited Iowa in 1985 as part of an exchange program. Branstad was Iowa's governor at that time and was one of the Iowans who made a strong positive impression on the future leader of China. As a young man, Xi learned firsthand that our state is populated by welcoming, hard-working people and has enormous agricultural assets. Xi never forgot that trip and the lessons he learned in Iowa. He made a return visit here in 2012 in conjunction with an official trip to the U.S. as China's then-vice president.
Branstad was the first American governor to meet with Xi after his ascension to the top job in China.
China imports more Iowa soybeans than all other countries combined. It also purchases other agricultural and manufactured goods produced here. Nearly one out of every five people who inhabit this planet lives in China. Its importance as a market for Iowa products both now and far into the future is obvious.
Purchasing and investment decisions aren't simply a matter of economic calculations. There is also a very human dimension. People typically choose to do business with other people they trust and respect. The strong positive relationships Iowa's political, business and agricultural leaders are building with their counterparts in China are paying dividends in terms of increased trade. As the Chinese economy grows, these relationships could also lead to greater Chinese investment in Iowa.
While there are policy disagreements between the American and Chinese governments on many issues, strengthening trade ties can benefit both nations enormously.
Iowa is poised to be a major beneficiary of these improving economic relationships.
The Messenger applauds Branstad, state economic development leaders and visionary business community representatives for their leadership in strengthening the trade bonds between Iowa and China. These initiatives will pay major dividends far into the future.