ST. GEORGE — Just like Utah, business is booming in Taiwan and South Korea, and in hopes of strengthening ties between companies in the Beehive State and those in the two Asian economies, a recent trade mission included delegates from Southern Utah.
The nine-day mission was completed at the end of September by a 48-member delegation led by Gov. Gary Herbert in an effort to boost trade and attract foreign investment to Utah. The delegation comprised representatives from 20 Utah companies and six other organizations, including two representatives from Southern Utah: St. George Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Pam Palermo and Dolores Heaton, director of the University of Utah’s Graduate Center St. George.
“This trip was intended to open doors and minds of decision makers of Utah companies to the possibilities of growth in international markets in South Korea and Taiwan,” Palermo said in a press release prepared in response to questions from St. George News. “We met many business leaders from a variety of industries who were interested in increasing their exports to Utah — and Utah exporting to them. This made the experience truly a win-win.”
Utah already enjoys a fruitful trade relationship with South Korea and Taiwan. In the last 15 years, the state’s trade with both countries has increased substantially. In 2017 alone, Utah exported $347 million in goods to South Korea and $636 million in goods to Taiwan, according to World Trade Center Utah.
“South Korea is Utah’s 11th largest export destination and Taiwan is the 6th,” Herbert said in a news release issued by the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “When you consider that 70 percent of the world’s purchasing power and 95 percent of the world’s consumers are outside of the U.S., maintaining international relations is important for Utah businesses and the state’s economic success.”
The mission allowed heavy-hitting businesses from Utah like Nu Skin to network with the likes of Samsung in South Korea and Delta Electronics in Taiwan.
“By forging international connections, both the state and Utah businesses are better positioned to succeed,” Miles Hansen, president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah, said in the Governor’s Office news release. “Many of these new partnerships will act as a catalyst for business expansion in that region.”
The governor and delegates also met with many top state officials, such as Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu. Discussions included possible investment opportunities for Taiwan in Utah, focusing on innovation.
The trade mission featured a strong cultural component, including a celebration reaffirming a 35-year sister-state relationship between the state of Utah and the South Korean Gyeonggi Province, the country’s most populous region.
“What I found valuable to learn — and it was surprising to see — that in both Taiwan and South Korea, human capital is the top commodity,” Palermo said. “Education and entrepreneurship are the No. 1 priorities, and it shows in their economic development and growth.”
Culturally, Palermo said, the Utah delegation was embraced by both dignitaries and the general population.
“We were treated so well on our trip,” she said. “They love Americans. I’ve been to a lot of countries and never been shown so much respect.”
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