Trade talks with Vietnam and other Asia-Pacific countries are encouraging for Wisconsin.
Our state already exports tens of millions of dollars in products to Vietnam, including processed food, machinery and technology. Lower trade barriers will further accelerate the trend.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton touted a trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership during a visit to Vietnam last week. She said she expects the agreement between the United States, Vietnam and several other nations including Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Peru and Chile should be finished by the end of the year.
Clinton said the deal would benefit all nations involved. At the same time, she pressured Vietnam — our former war foe — to allow more political and Internet freedom, which could be tied to the agreement.
Wisconsin agricultural exports to Vietnam soared to $39 million last year, a more than 50 percent increase. Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel and industry representatives visited Vietnam in January, and Vietnamese feed buyers plan to attend the World Dairy Expo this fall in Madison.
The potential for greater trade between Vietnam and Wisconsin is “extraordinary,” according to Paul Jadin, who leads the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Vietnam has the third fastest growing economy in the world, Jadin noted, and it wants to buy more Wisconsin products, including dairy cows.
“They are coming right out and saying that ‘We want your diet,’” Jadin said. Part of the attraction to Wisconsin food products is a desire by many Vietnamese people to have taller children, he added.
Trade, of course, is a two-way street. Some industries face tougher competition when barriers fall.
But Clinton and the Obama administration — which signed trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Columbia last year — seem to understand the greater good for all. Free trade allows more people access to more of what they want and need at better prices, which boosts the economy. It’s not a zero-sum game.
Clinton said the Trans-Pacific Partnership will raise standards for labor conditions, environmental protections and intellectual property.
Wisconsin and its congressional delegation should root for the latest trade deal to get done.
Photo Credit: AP