Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is travelling in China with a delegation of USDA officials and representatives of 12 Iowa businesses on a trade mission. They left Des Moines March 21. "The trip is a great opportunity to build on the strong trading relationship between Iowa and China," says Northey. The Iowa companies participating in the trip include equipment, seed, pork and feed companies that are looking to expand their business through trade with China. "We are also fortunate to have a leader of Des Moines Area Community Colleges travelling with us," he adds.
A separate trade mission to China, sponsored by the Iowa Soybean Association, is also taking place. The ISA trade mission arrived in China several days prior to the arrival of the USDA trade mission. Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds is accompanying the ISA group in China, as are several farmer leaders of the soybean association.
Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds meets with China's Vice President Xi Jinping
On Monday March 19 Iowa Lt. Governor Reynolds met with China's vice president Xi Jinping while in Bejing on the trade mission with the Iowa Soybean Association. Reynolds and Xi met for 45 minutes in the Great Hall of the People.
The pair discussed Xi's historic visit to Iowa which occurred last month. Xi Jinping, who is expected to become president of China later this year, visited Muscatine and Des Moines in mid-February. He led a Chinese trade delegation of 160 people. While in Des Moines the Chinese signed agreements to buy large amounts of U.S. soybeans, and they attended the first-ever U.S.-China agricultural trade conference. It was held at the new home of the World Food Prize Foundation in downtown Des Moines.
Participating in a telephone press conference from China on March 19, Reynolds said: "This visit helps solidify the strong relationship that was forged last month in Iowa. The meeting we had with Vice President Xi here today in Bejing is a reaffirmation of the partnership Iowa and China have on trade and other issues. 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 the Chinese in the future."
Reynolds presented Xi with a photo album from his recent trip to Iowa. Xi said he looks forward to having future visits with his "old friends" from Iowa.
USDA trade mission to China with 40 U.S. companies will strengthen business ties
Northey is sending back audio reports from China which are being distributed to the media by the Iowa Department of Agriculture. He says the goal of the USDA trade mission is to strengthen partnerships between U.S. and Chinese businesses and to strengthen agricultural trade between the two countries. This trade mission is USDA's largest to date, with more than 40 U.S. agribusiness representatives from six state departments of agriculture. Acting USDA Under Secretary Michael Scuse is leading the USDA trade mission to China, Vilsack did not go.
In 2011, China moved into the top spot as the number one market for U.S. agricultural goods, purchasing $20 billion in U.S. ag exports. U.S. farm exports to China supported 160,000 American jobs in 2011. "This trade mission offers American businesses the opportunity to position themselves to enter or expand their presence in China, one of our strongest trading partners," says Vilsack, in a press release issued by USDA the day the group left for China. "China and the U.S. share a special relationship and we embrace this opportunity to continue our in-depth dialogue on issues of mutual concern. At the same time we want to ensure that our American farmers, ranchers and producers continue to be recognized across China and the Asia Pacific region as reliable suppliers of the highest quality food and agricultural products."
Sales of U.S. food and ag products to China have grown 80% in three years
The USDA trade mission to China ends on March 28 when the U.S. group returns to the United States. Vilsack is not accompanying the trade group to China. Last month, Vilsack hosted China's Vice President Xi Jinping and Ag Minister Han Changfu at the first U.S.-China Agricultural Symposium in Des Moines. The ag ministers signed a Plan of Strategic Cooperation that will guide the two countries' agricultural relationship for the next 5 years. The plan focuses on ag science, trade and education, and looks to deepen cooperation through technical exchanges and strengthen coordination in key priority areas, including food security and emerging technologies.
The USDA trade mission began in Chengdu, one of the most important economic, transportation and communication centers in western China and home of USDA's newest Ag Trade Office. Participants then traveled on to Shanghai, a hub of global commerce and the most populous city in the world. "As participants on this trade mission we are getting first-hand market information, access to government decision makers, and one-on-one meetings with business contacts, potential agents, distributors and importers. As a result, the U.S. agribusiness companies and other representatives on this trip can position themselves to enter or expand their presence in China."
USDA and farm groups are working aggressively to expand U.S. ag exports
USDA and U.S. farm commodity organizations such as the soybean association are working aggressively to expand export opportunities and reduce barriers to trade. Such efforts helped push U.S. ag exports to record levels in 2011. "American agriculture is currently experiencing one of its best periods in history thanks to the productivity, resiliency and resourcefulness of our farmers and agribusinesses," says Vilsack.
He adds, "Today net U.S. farm income is at record levels while debt has been cut in half since the 1980s. Overall, American agriculture supports one in 12 jobs in the U.S. and provides American consumers with 83% of the food we consume, while maintaining affordability and choice. Strong agricultural exports contribute to a positive U.S. trade balance, create jobs, boost economic growth and support our national export initiative's goal of doubling all U.S. exports by the end of 2014."