Former ambassadors discuss strategies for boosting international trade
— Two former U.S. ambassadors say Wisconsin should leverage cultural, diplomatic and academic ties with other nations in order to strengthen international trade.
“I don’t think we take advantage of the extraordinary asset we have in the University of Wisconsin System,” said Mark Green, a former Republican Wisconsin lawmaker and Congress member from the Green Bay area who served as ambassador to Tanzania. “It lets them know that the state has a commitment to investing in technology but also in workforce, that they’ll be able to tap into the programs and initiatives that the UW System offers.”
He joined Tom Loftus, a former top Dem legislative leader from Sun Prairie who served as ambassador to Norway and as a UW System regent, in a virtual discussion. The event was hosted by WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com as part of an ongoing trade policy event series.
“One thing people do not think about that much are the UW alumni clubs and associations in these countries,” Loftus said. “We have an alumni association in Beijing, Singapore, South China, Shanghai and Taipei — that means all these people have gone to the University of Wisconsin, are back home, are in business.”
He framed these alumni groups as “important entry points” for businesses and local governments looking to expand private investment and other international trade opportunities. Loftus and Green agreed on the potential for embassies in foreign nations to develop new trade opportunities, since all have commercial services tasked with fostering these relationships.
Green said that business liaisons at embassies “oftentimes they don’t know what they have,” and urged trade leaders to reach out to embassies to get the ball rolling. He also stressed the importance of face-to-face trade diplomacy and developing personal relationships.
“Talk about what it is that you have, what it is that you bring to the table, and then let them go to work for you,” he said. “I do think trade delegations are a good idea.”
The conversation also touched on Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s recent nomination to the position of U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, highlighting the importance of the country as a “strategic crossroads” for trade in Europe. He would be the latest in a long string of U.S. ambassadors from Wisconsin if confirmed.
“You can use your connections as an ambassador to leverage the interests of the United States,” Loftus said.
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Watch a video of the discussion here.
State exports up 18 percent in first half of 2021
— Wisconsin exports in the first half of 2021 were over 18 percent higher than in the first half of 2020, a recent WEDC report shows.
Businesses in the state exported $11.5 billion worth of products between January and June of this year, with industrial machinery being the state’s largest export category. These products make up about 24 percent of Wisconsin exports with a total value of nearly $2.8 billion, and had an increase of more than 8 percent over the year.
The greatest increase by dollar value was seen in vehicles and parts exports, with an increase of $308.3 million or nearly 54 percent, reaching over $881 million. Agriculture-related exports — defined as a “super-category” in the report — totaled $1.9 billion in the first half of 2020, for an increase of over 21 percent over the year.
Over the same period, state exports of medical and scientific instruments rose by over 15 percent, reaching $1.07 billion. Meanwhile, plastics exports increased by about 29 percent to over $715 million.
According to the Wisconsin Trade Data Report, Wisconsin is ranked 21st among U.S. states for exports. The report is created by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the World Institute for Strategic Economic Research.
On the national level, U.S. exports for the first half of this year increased about 23 percent over the year.
The top five individual countries for Wisconsin exports in the first half of this year were: Canada, with around $3.6 billion; Mexico, with $1.5 billion; China, $854 million; Germany, $441 million; and Japan, $362 million.
The report also highlights state imports, which increased by nearly 38 percent over the same period to $16.7 billion. The largest import category, industrial machinery, increased by 45 percent over the year to reach $5.36 billion. And pharmaceutical imports also saw a large increase with 61 percent, reaching $3.06 billion.
China provided around 20 percent of Wisconsin imports, while nearly 17 percent came from Canada and about 9 percent came from Mexico, the report shows.
“Talking Trade” with Jay Nash of the Madison International Trade Association and Nash Global Trade Services
The latest “Talking Trade” discussion features Jay Nash of the Madison International Trade Association and Nash Global Trade Services.
He joins hosts Ian Coxhead and Sandi Siegel for a discussion of trade trends and their impact on store shelves in coming months.
The course of relations between the U.S. and China continues to be a top foreign policy priority under the new Biden administration. President Biden recently singled out China as “the greatest geopolitical test” of this century. The path forward on China will now be determined by a different circle of leaders and influencers in the Biden administration than the past four years. We will see them take a different approach to addressing much of what are the same threats and challenges with China.
Click the link below for an overview provided by Michael Best Strategies on the leadership in the Biden administration influencing our policy on China, the threats and challenges the U.S. seeks to address, and what businesses can expect from the Biden administration and Congress as they take action on China.