It was made out to be a big ceremony in Washington D.C. last week. But in reality, it is the latest in a series of purchase agreements made by Taiwan to acquire U.S. ag goods. For the fifth time since 1998, a Taiwanese government delegation came to our nation's capital. And making a big deal out of what transpired was Defacto Taiwanese ambassador to the U.S. David Lee.
LEE: This year, our agriculture goodwill mission will sign letters of intent to purchase in the year of 2006 and 2007, up to 14.5 million metric ton, equivalent to 559 million bushes of U.S. wheat, soybeans, and corn.
In terms of a value, the purchase equals $3.1 billion dollars. And that does not include another $2 million pledged by Taiwan as disaster aid for Hurricane Katrina victims. But the ceremony did not stop in Washington D.C. The delegation soon after began making the rounds to nine farm states where similar purchase agreements were or are to be signed. The delegation will visit Idaho starting Tuesday, culminating in a signing agreement between Taiwanese officials and Governor Dirk Kempthorne Thursday. Taiwan would buy soft white wheat from Idaho producers. And according to Steve Johnson of the Idaho Grain Producers Association, Taiwan's interest in Idaho wheat is nothing new.
JOHNSON: Taiwan has been one of our leading customers for a number of years. Their loyalty extends back to the 1950's.
So then why is this annual ceremony on both a national and state level getting so much publicity this time around, especially from Taiwan's point of view? Simply put, the increased goodwill is part of Taiwanese efforts to convince the U.S. to join with them in a bi-lateral free trade agreement. Johnson says he is all for such an agreement, based on past trade history of the two nations, and the potential economic benefits Idaho wheat producers, and U.S. ag in general could receive in increased purchases from Taiwan.
JOHNSON: Their loyalty has been demonstrated, our loyalty to them has been demonstrated, and so I think regardless of a bi-lateral agreement, we will continue to enjoy a good trade relationship.
The reason such a deal has not been considered by the U.S. yet is its demand that Taiwan crack down on piracy of U.S. videos, music, and computer software in its country.