Va. to establish trade office in Taiwan
Announcement comes as Youngkin meets with Taiwan president
Virginia will establish a trade office in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced Monday morning after meeting with that country’s president, Tsai Ing-wen.
Youngkin’s meeting with Taiwan’s president came during the governor’s first international trade mission, during which he will also stop in Seoul, South Korean and Tokyo throughout the remainder of April.
The trade office was established by an executive order issued Monday, and Youngkin has given the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick until June 30 to submit a plan for its opening, including the resources it will need as well as a timeline and an exploration of services to promote the state’s businesses and industries in Taiwan, as well as the generation of new business.
Virginia exported $730 million in products to Taiwan and imported $1 billion in goods from the island in 2022, Youngkin’s office said in a news release. It would be the state’s fourth international economic development office — others are in Germany, Seoul, and Japan.
“As a premier partner in the commonwealth’s economic and business ecosystem, I was thrilled to meet with President Tsai to strengthen Virginia’s decades-old partnership with Taiwan,” Youngkin said in a statement. “As a former business leader, I appreciate the commitment to excellence that Taiwan demonstrates across sectors. They are an important training partner and model of prosperity for nations across the globe.”
Taiwan ranked No. 8 as the U.S.’s largest trading partner in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of State, and Youngkin noted that the country ranks as the fourth fastest growing source of foreign direct investment in the U.S. That foreign investment includes the semiconductor industry, Younkin also noted in his order, and Taiwan, dominates that market, producing more than 60% of the world’s semiconductors, The Economist reported. Building out a semiconductor industry in the state has been a priority for state leaders, including U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, following passage of the CHIPS and Science Act last year. On Friday, Youngkin’s office announced the launch of the Virginia Alliance for Semiconductor Technology to build a chips workforce.
News of the new trade office comes amid tense relations between the U.S. and China, which has been antagonizing its neighbors for years. Beijing has declared that Taiwan, an island of 23 million people, will one day be unified with the mainland, by force if necessary, while Taiwan, a democracy that has been governed independently of China since 1949, has asserted its sovereignty.
A.J. Nolte, an assistant professor of government at Regent University, says there’s growing bipartisan consensus among lawmakers on Capitol Hill to defend Taiwan, if it comes to it, adding that the country has regular transfers of power, more religious freedom and more LGBTQ rights than China. Virginia is also home to four of the country’s top five defense contractors, Nolte says, adding establishing trade ties “makes sense for Virginia.”
The Biden administration has restricted the sale of semiconductors to China in recent months, citing national security threats. Late last year, Youngkin pulled Virginia from consideration for a $3.5 billion Ford Motor Co. electric vehicle plant amid concerns about the Chinese company that would operate it — a move some of the governor’s critics say may have been more motivated by Youngkin striving to be more appealing to a national GOP audience for a presidential bid.
While Youngkin has consistently demurred when asked about his presidential ambitions, billionaire GOP donor Thomas Peterffy gave $1 million last week to Younkin’s political action committee, Spirit of Virginia, after the businessman said he putting his support for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “on hold” because his positions on abortion and adult book bans have alienated some GOP donors and the mainstream wing of the party, Politico reported.
“From a state perspective, [Youngkin] might be able to just say … this is all about Virginia,” Nolte told Virginia Business. “It doesn’t hurt him, let’s just put it that way. If he decides that he wants to run for president later on … I don’t think he’s in any hurry to jump in. I think, if you’re Youngkin, probably what you’re thinking [is], ‘Well, if [former President Donald] Trump and DeSantis batter each other into oblivion, and if things go well for me in the [November] Virginia [General Assembly] elections, I’m going to try to swoop in and make a late entry.’ This kind of thing is not going to hurt him, that’s for sure.”