Iowa's growing ties with China

Updated: 2013-04-15 08:01

By Terry E. Branstad (China Daily)

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As the governor of the US state of Iowa, and as an "old friend" of President Xi Jinping, I have had the honor to lead a delegation of US governors and Iowa business leaders to China to participate in the second China-US Governors' Forum, hosted by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, and celebrate the 30th anniversary of Iowa's sister-state relationship with Hebei province.

It is truly an honor for me to recognize this special anniversary of a unique partnership that brought Xi to the United States for the first time in 1985.

Iowa and China have evolved in many ways since 1985. When I first met Xi, he was a local Party leader traveling on an exchange program, the Iowa sister-states program, on his first trip to the US. During his two-week stay in Iowa, his agenda included a cruise on the mighty Mississippi River, visits to local farms, meetings with farm groups and businesses, participating in family potlucks, attending a birthday party and meeting with me, as governor, in my formal office of the state capitol.

In 2011, I again had the honor of meeting with Xi, then vice-president, during my trade mission to China, and I extended an invitation to him to visit Iowa again. We were delighted that he accepted the invitation and visited Des Moines and Muscatine, in February 2012, during which we both attended the US-China High-Level Agricultural Symposium. I know that many people that he met in 1985, his "old friends" as he calls us, enjoyed having tea with him and reminiscing about the 1985 delegation's visit. In addition, Iowa hosted an elegant formal dinner in his honor with more than 600 distinguished guests.

What Xi saw firsthand in 1985, and what I know very well as governor of Iowa, is that Iowans are sincere, hardworking people who take pride in the work they do and the products they produce for a growing world population.

Iowa's unique partnership with China has a long and successful history and one that highlights the importance of people-to-people exchanges. These exchanges allow for better understanding and stronger economic partnerships that benefit the people of Iowa and China both.

The state of Iowa shares a long economic history with the people of China, one that we value and want to continue to foster. Our state's safe and reliable agriculture products are an important food source for the Chinese people. In fact, Iowa farmers export more soybeans to the China than they do to the rest of the world. It is commonly known in our state that one in every four rows of soybeans eventually makes its way to China. On behalf of the farmers of Iowa, we appreciate the chance to be partners with China in our respective countries' economic advancement and ensuring our food security. Our corn and soybeans are vital inputs into China's livestock industries, keeping input prices low, and our pork helps supply Chinese consumers, all these help China mitigate food price inflation. I can't think of a better example of a win-win partnership.

Our state also has experience in trade, providing products and services to nearly every country in the world. Iowa's top exports are oilseeds and grains, agriculture and construction machinery, meat products, grain and oilseed products, and general- purpose machinery.

With more than 92,000 farms in our state, we are proud to be the second largest exporters of agriculture products, and the largest exporters of soybeans, corn and pork in the US.

As governor of Iowa, I, along with our business leaders and farmers are focused on helping our state's products and services go beyond our state's borders. With more than 95 percent of the world's population living outside of the US, we know that the world relies on our ability to produce more agriculture products to meet this growing need.

I hope that our state's unique partnership with China continues to help the people of China and Iowa for many years to come.

The author is the governor of Iowa.

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