Sen. Dirk Kempthorne left Washington, D.C., on Monday on an eight-day trip he hopes will boost Idaho’s foreign trade connections in Asia.
The Idaho Republican is among six senators on a visit to Japan, Vietnam, the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. They also will tour the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea and meet with Vietnam President Le Duc An.
“Idaho has numerous interests in the growing markets of Asia, and I want to help expand Idaho exports,” Kempthorne said in a news release.
“There are numerous trade barriers and patent infringements that need to be eliminated,” the senator said. “This trip also will give me a good opportunity to tell leaders overseas that these barriers are a serious impediment to good relations with the United States.”
Gary Whitwell, trade representative with the state Department of Commerce, said Asia is the state’s top trade region. Last year, nearly 52 percent of Idaho’s exports went there, totaling about $1 billion. Japan received more Idaho exports than any other country - almost $250 million in non-farm goods.
“Any time we have somebody of the senator’s stature go over there, it helps,” Whitwell said. “By expressing their appreciation, it gives us more visibility and makes it easier for our businesses to invest over there.”
Kempthorne will meet with the state’s trade representative and with officials of Morrison Knudsen and Micron Technology.
In Vietnam, Kempthorne will discuss Boise State University’s program in that country’s National Economics University. Boise State provides two faculty members in Vietnam to teach Western economics under a program that began two years ago.
“The Far East represents perhaps the most important emerging region, economically, in the world today,” said Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Senate minority leader.