Trade missions open the door to Nebraska exports while bringing great jobs to our doorstep. Over the past few days, I led a trade mission to Vietnam, where I met with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, business leaders and government ministers. The potential to grow Nebraska’s agricultural exports to Vietnam is enormous.
Vietnam’s economy has been growing by leaps and bounds—with annual GDP growth having averaged 6% over the past 15 years. Their population is young and growing. From 2017 to 2018, total U.S. agricultural exports to Vietnam grew from $2.5 billion to $4 billion, and Nebraska’s exports to Vietnam tripled. Demand is soaring for commodities that Vietnam does not locally produce given its tropical climate — like beef and dry edible beans. In 2018, Vietnam also implemented a policy to introduce E5 into its fuel supply, with plans to transition to E10 by 2020. This move, combined with an overall rise in the country’s fuel consumption, is steadily increasing demand for ethanol. For all of these reasons, now is an ideal time for Nebraska to forge closer trade ties with Vietnam.
Currently, I’m in Japan, the world’s third largest economy. It’s exciting to be here at a time when the Trump Administration is finalizing details on an agreement to make our countries’ relationship even stronger. Nebraska already exports more ag products to Japan than to any other country, and it’s the top international destination for Nebraska beef, pork, eggs, and wheat. The revised trade deal reduces tariffs and will soon make Nebraska-made goods even more accessible to Japanese customers. In Tokyo, we learned that the U.S. and Japan hope to finalize the agreement at an upcoming meeting of the United Nations before the end of the month.
Trade missions have also spurred growth in our state’s bioscience industry. In 2015, I led a trade delegation to the European Union and met with leaders of Novozymes in Denmark to encourage them to expand their presence in Nebraska. In May 2017, the Danish bioscience company announced a $36 million expansion to its operations in Blair, where it produces enzymes for use in ethanol production. A month later, German firm Evonik and Netherlands-based Royal DSM chose Blair as the site of an innovative joint venture to produce omega-3 fatty acids from fermented algae. Veramaris, the company resulting from their partnership, opened its $200 million facility in Blair this July.
The economic development occurring in Sidney is yet another example of the ripple effect trade missions can have. In August 2017, I met leaders from Agri-Plastics, a manufacturer headquartered in Toronto, during a trade mission to Canada. A few months later, Agri-Plastics announced plans to build a new facility in Sidney to make calf shelters and enclosures. Agri-Plastics has since ramped up operations and now runs its Nebraska facility 24/7 to keep pace with growing demand.
In addition to international trade missions, we also travel nationally to attract investment in Nebraska. For example, in the fall of 2016 I went on a trade visit to Menlo Park, California to highlight Nebraska’s strengths to Facebook executives. In April 2017, Facebook selected Papillion as the site for a major data center. This June, Facebook officially opened the data center, which will represent a $1 billion investment in our state by the time it’s fully completed. Other tech firms are following Facebook to our state. Earlier this year, Google announced its intention to build a data center in Nebraska, and Compute North chose Kearney as the location of a data hub.
After I return from Asia this week, I’ll continue my work to grow international trade when I attend Husker Harvest Days in Grand Island. This year, for the first time ever, Husker Harvest Days will have an International Visitors Center. The Center gives international guests an up-close look at Nebraska’s global leadership in agriculture. The Center also provides Nebraskans an opportunity to promote farm equipment, machinery, and technologies that are made here and used all over the world. In addition, it will serve as a connection point for international businesses considering an investment in our state.
Both at home and abroad, my team is working tirelessly to grow Nebraska through international trade. We will continue to lead trade missions, open new markets, and attract new investments to our state.