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 important component of the trade picture. 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, led by Gov. Terry Branstad, has great economic significance for the Iowa farm economy.
In mid-April, Branstad and a group of U.S. governors participated in a forum in China with five Chinese governors. Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., and Gov, Bob McDonnell, R-Va., were part of the delegation. So too were a number of Iowa business, educational and farm representatives.
Branstad played a key role in this trade mission because of the Hawkeye State's - and his own personal - 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 the U.S. as China's vice president.
Xi made a point of spending time with Branstad last month. Branstad was the first American governor to meet with Xi since his ascension to the top job in China.
"Our meeting lasted over 45 minutes. President Xi spoke highly of his history with the state and the people of Iowa," Branstad said of the meeting. "He even recalled the menu from the state dinner we held on Feb. 15, 2012, and the delicious corn, soybean, pork and beef that we ate."
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 a boom in trade. As the Chinese economy grows, these ties 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 for his leadership in strengthening the trade ties between Iowa and China. His vision will pay dividends far into the future.