International trade is a critical contributor to economic prosperity in Iowa. According to the Business Roundtable, about 2,500 Iowa companies export their products and services internationally.
The export of farm goods is an especially important component of the trade picture. Beef and pork producers are key players in the state's agricultural economy and both benefit greatly from international customers. The Global Trade Information Service has calculated that the Hawkeye State exports beef products to more than 21 countries and pork products to about 41.
Analysts estimate that every third row of Iowa crops is destined for a market outside the United States.
One of the boom areas internationally for the sale of U.S. farm products is China. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, American agricultural exports to China have grown 80 percent in the last three years. Consequently, the just-completed trade mission to China sponsored by the USDA potentially has great economic significance for the Iowa farm economy.
Michael Scuse, USDA under secretary of farm and foreign agricultural services, headed up the five-day trade mission that visited China late in March. He was accompanied by representatives of 40 U.S. businesses and leaders from state agricultural departments from six states. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, who has extensive experience in promoting exports, was a key part of the delegation.
"China and the United States share a special relationship, and we embrace this opportunity to demonstrate that our U.S. farmers, ranchers, and producers are reliable suppliers of the highest-quality food and agricultural products," said Scuse in a statement released by the USDA.
On a separate March trade mission to China sponsored by the Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds also helped promote Iowa agricultural products. While in Beijing, she had the opportunity to spend 45 minutes with China's Vice President Xi Jinping. Xi, who is expected to become China's president later this year, was recently in Iowa as part of an important diplomatic visit to the United States.
Reynolds said Xi's visits to Iowa and her conversation with him in Beijing were helping to solidify a strong relationship between Iowa and China.
"The meeting was a reaffirmation of a partnership that Governor Branstad and Vice President Xi established nearly 30 years ago." she said in a statement issued by her office. "Our friendship with Vice President Xi is an important one that offers great potential that could help the people of Iowa. China imports more Iowa soybeans than all other countries combined and we look forward to a strong trading partnership with them in the future."
While there are policy disagreement between the American and Chinese governments on many issues, strengthening trade ties can benefit both nations enormously.
The Messenger applauds these important trade missions and strongly supports an expansion of commercial ties between Iowa and China. According to the USDA, U.S. exports to China in fiscal year 2011 reached an impressive $22.8 billion. As business relationships are enhanced in the months ahead, the prospects for 2012 and beyond appear very bright indeed.