Montana’s Taiwan trade mission ‘can help exporters from our state’

Opening a trade mission in Taipei gives Montana on-the-ground representation in Taiwan, according to state officials.

Gov. Greg Gianforte officially opened the Montana Asia Trade Office in Taipei on Oct. 20 with the help of Director General Daniel Chen of the Seattle Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office. This reestablished the state’s presence in Taiwan to expand trade.

In 2019 and 2020, Taiwan purchased more than $175 million of Montana goods, making it one of Montana’s largest trading partners, the state said on its website. The Montana Wheat and Barley Committee estimated that more than 70% of Montana’s wheat goes to markets in the Pacific Rim.

Mei Mei Wang returns as the official representative to the Montana Asia Trade Office in Taipei after leading the office before its closure in 2012.

Angelyn DeYoung, international trade manager for the state Department of Commerce, explained Wang’s unique skills to The Center Square.

“She can help exporters from our state to either investigate the potential of selling into that market, or she can make connections for them. She can help translate for them. She can support them at on-the-ground activities in the country. She also supports our tourism efforts there,” DeYoung said.

That covers the business and tourism sides as Wang works to make connections between Montana’s outputs and Taiwan’s inputs, according to DeYoung. As she looks for those connections, whether through government contracts or private industry, she looks for what Taiwan needs.

Montana has semiconductor manufacturing equipment, commodities like low-emission coal, and some rare earth metals extracted in the state.

Montana coal has lower emissions and is higher quality than other major markets that sell into Taiwan, which is very interested in sourcing those low emissions coal. The state is looking into how it can marry up those interests, DeYoung said.

“[Wang’s] helping make those connections that we would really only be able to read about in the paper, in the media, and so she’s making those connections one-on-one, trying to find new markets for Montana products and for Montana commodities,” DeYoung said.

The trade mission also will encourage businesses from Taiwan to open facilities in Montana or invest in Montana businesses.

“[Wang] is working on finding those opportunities in country, on-the-ground, ear-to-the-ground talking to government officials and diplomats and business professionals. Talking to them and making those connections specifically for Montana,” she said.

Wang hit the ground running in September and has already had business recruitment and tourism seminars.

This new trade mission and Montana’s trade mission in Japan encourage students to come and study in Montana, either as high school exchange students or college-aged exchanges.

“It’s a hard export to measure. Because these students, they come to Montana, they pay tuition in Montana, but then their families come and visit. And so there’s some tourism dollars that go into that as well. It is a significant export for the state even if it is hard for our typical mechanisms of measuring impact,” DeYoung said.

If the state worked with a generic trade office, it would give priority to large companies over a smaller Montana exporter.

“Montana has several large exporters, but by and large our exporters are small businesses who are making a huge difference for the state as an aggregate, but individually, aren’t as big as other states’ exports,” DeYoung said.

A Montana trade mission enables state businesses to have customized one-on-one assistance that gives them a leg up in the market, she said.

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