Republican Terry Branstad says if he’s re-elected governor, he’ll go on a trade mission to the Pacific Rim and open an Iowa trade office in South Korea.

“I think having that presence and especially in the Asian culture, they want to know you before they do business with you so that’s why going on a trade mission and then having a permanent office there and having constant contact,” Branstad says. “I know that from my dealings in Asia before. It’s critically important for those cultures and Korea has great potential for us.”

Iowa had a trade office in Germany when Branstad was first elected governor in 1982 and he soon established trade offices in Hong Kong and Japan.  Opening another trade office in South Korea could capitalize on the demand for pork in that region according to Branstad.

“I think I’ve got the experience and the background to really make a difference in this area and I think it’s got great potential for Iowa because we raise so much more agriculture products than we consume,” Branstad says.  “…And as a nation, unfortunately, we’re on the wrong side of the export/import business.” 

Branstad says if Iowa exports were to grow by 20 percent over the next five years, that would create nearly 13,000 new jobs.

Branstad has previously called for abolishing the Iowa Department of Economic Development and replacing it with a public/private partnership involving groups like the Iowa Business Council and the Association of Business and Industry. Branstad would direct that new “Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress” to provide translation assistance, market research and other support services to Iowa companies seeking to do business in other countries. 

Branstad faces the current governor, Democrat Chet Culver, in the fall election.  “I don’t think he has been hands-on involved enough in economic development,” Branstad says. “He’s more interested in politics than policy and consequently this is an area that hasn’t gotten the attention that it deserves.” 

Branstad visited Southeastern Community College in West Burlington late Thursday afternoon to unveil his trade-focused ideas. Earlier on Thursday Governor Culver attended the Iowa Economic Development Board’s meeting in Des Moines.  Culver said the agency and its board of directors had a track record during his first term that most other states envy.  

“They’ve worked successfully with 279 companies that have agreed to invest $5.3 billion in our state and they’ve agreed to create 21,000 jobs,” Culver said, “just in the last 37 (to) 38 months.” 

Culver said Iowa’s economy is “out-pacing most of America” during the recession.