BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Monday signed a two-year agreement supporting Idaho wheat sales to Taiwan in a deal that officials say gives wheat producers a reliable buyer and Taiwan a dependable supplier.
The Republican governor participated in the ceremonial signing with officials from Taiwan, the Idaho wheat industry and Taiwan Flour Mills Association.
Wheat is one of Idaho’s top crops, and about half is exported to other countries. Taiwan is one of the state’s top buyers, with trade dating back to the 1970s. Officials said that Monday’s agreement solidifies that commitment.
“They have been a very, very loyal customer, Taiwan has, for a long time,” Little said at the signing in the governor's ceremonial office at the Statehouse, noting Taiwan is the second-largest market for everything exported out of Idaho. “Our farmers in Idaho, a lot of them have made significant investments in their farms predicated on that consistent good market that we have."
Canada is the top importer of Idaho products.
The Taiwanese delegation is also visiting Kansas, Oregon and Washington, D.C., as part of a goodwill mission to demonstrate Taiwan's continued willingness to buy U.S. wheat. Overall, Taiwan is looking to buy 66.1 million bushels from the U.S., worth about $576 million, about 80% of its total wheat imports. Officials said Idaho is expected to supply about 5% of the U.S. portion to Taiwan.
Specifically, Little and Director General Daniel K.C. Chen of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle served as witness signers to the agreement that was also signed by Idaho Wheat Commission Chairman Clark Hamilton and Taiwan Flour Mills Association Chairman Tony Yi-Chuen Shu.
There's “a special connection between Taiwan and Idaho whether it is agriculture, commercial or political exchanges that improves significantly the common endeavors contributed by the government and people on both sides,” Chen said.
The wheat deal comes at a time of uncertainty in the global wheat market with Russia's attack on Ukraine, a significant wheat exporter.
Shu said Taiwan imports 99.9% of its wheat but doesn't buy from Ukraine. He said the logistics of buying wheat during a time of uncertainty meant Taiwan appreciated the “U.S. being a trustworthy partner.”
Hamilton, the Idaho Wheat Commission chairman, said he looked forward to continuing the relationship with Taiwan.
“The Wheat Commission and the farmers in Idaho are committed to maintaining this relationship,” he said.
Besides wheat, Idaho is also connected to Taiwan through Boise-based memory chipmaker Micron Technology, one of Taiwan’s largest foreign employers.
“We have a very fruitful relationship with them,” Little said at the signing. “Our countries are bound by a common thread of economic freedom (and) entrepreneurial growth.”
Chen said Little is expected to travel to Taiwan in the near future, possibly this year, to help strengthen the trading partnership. Little's office did not comment on Chen's remarks. Former Idaho Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter traveled to Taiwan in 2018, meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
If Little were to make the trip, it would be the latest in a series of visits by U.S. political leaders that have stirred the ire of China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory and condemns all official contacts between Taipei and foreign governments that recognize Beijing.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in July, making her the highest-ranking American official to visit in 25 years, prompting China to launch missiles over the island and send ships and planes across the midline of the Taiwan Strait.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona and Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana both traveled to Taiwan in August and met with Tsai.