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Published September 12, 2011, 08:24 AM

Branstad announces trade trip to 3 nations in Asia

DES MOINES, Iowa — Gov. Terry Branstad has announced plans for a 10-day trade trip to Asia that he says will include meetings with top government officials. Speaking at his weekly news conference Monday, Branstad told reporters he will visit South Korea, China and Japan. He said the trip will mark his 14th visit to Japan, his third to China and fourth to South Korea.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Gov. Terry Branstad has announced plans for a 10-day trade trip to Asia that he says will include meetings with top government officials. Speaking at his weekly news conference Monday, Branstad told reporters he will visit South Korea, China and Japan. He said the trip will mark his 14th visit to Japan, his third to China and fourth to South Korea.

"Trade and investment missions will help us grow the Iowa economy, particularly in the Asian culture where those relationships, personal relationships, are really important," said Branstad.

Branstad's trip is a follow-up to one headed by Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, who visited some of the same countries in June.

During his China visit, Branstad said he will meet with Vice President Xi Jinping, a rare meeting between a governor and a top official of the Chinese national government.

"That is huge," said Branstad. "Normally governors don't get this level of meetings. This is the highest elected official I've ever met with in China."

Branstad pointed to his relationship with Xi as part of his ability to bolster trade, noting he first met XI during his initial tenure as governor when Xi had a much more modest post.

"The fact that we first met him in 1985 and we've had this long-standing relationship is key," Branstad said.

Branstad will be accompanied by a staffer and an Iowa Highway Patrol trooper, along with representatives of the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Funding for the trip will come from the IDED Foundation, money which was raised privately and is used to defray the costs of economic development programming, including overseas trade missions, said spokesman Tim Albrecht. Precise costs will be released later, he said.

China is a big and potentially growing market for Iowa's farm products, importing 470 million bushels of soybeans and 1.7 million tons of corn annually, with some projections saying corn imports could grow to 15 million tons as China expands its livestock industry.

During his trip, Branstad said he will push for approval of a free trade agreement with South Korea.

"It's important that this be done because right now the Europeans are beating us there," said Branstad. "The Europeans have already got a free trade agreement with Korea, and the quicker we can see action the better."

Branstad defended his focus on expanding trade.

"All you have to do is look at the price of corn and soybeans and you can see the impact it's had on Iowa income," he said.

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