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NDTO News Article

Press Release: North Dakota Hosts International Visitors, Deputy Chairman of Shandong Province, China, During Big Iron Farm Show

FARGO, N.D. – North Dakota hosted over 75 international visitors from 14 countries in September as part of the Big Iron International Visitors Program, the portion of the Big Iron Farm Show connecting international buyers with North Dakota businesses. The International Visitors Program was held Sept. 14-17 and is organized by the North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) with the cooperation of the U.S. Commercial Service. Since 2007, the NDTO’s Big Iron International Visitors Program has brought nearly 900 international guests to North Dakota.

“With more than 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the United States, it’s important that we continue to expand our presence in the global marketplace,” said Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, chairman of the NDTO Board of Directors. “The Big Iron International Visitors Program, now in its ninth year, is a good example of the work underway to bring our high-quality products and services to more and more consumers around the world.”

In 2014, North Dakota companies exported 1,500 unique products to 122 different countries, totaling $5.5 billion of merchandise. As of June 2015, North Dakota exports have increased in several markets this year. Export increases have occurred in Australia, Kazakhstan, Romania, and Poland among other countries. North Dakota’s outreach to African countries is also visible with new market sales to Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Senegal.

Delegations from countries including China, Guatemala, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uzbekistan gathered to attend company presentations, equipment demonstrations, farm and ranch tours, and educational events. On average, representatives from 30 North Dakota companies participate every year to meet and establish business relationships with potential buyers through the Big Iron International Visitors Program. Company participants may include agricultural equipment manufacturers, agriculture service providers, commodity storage and processing equipment manufacturers, educational institutions, and research specialists.

The International Visitors Program also had a special guest this year. Mr. Jia Wanzhi, Deputy Chairman of The Standing Committee of Shandong Provincial People’s Congress, attended tours and meetings with North Dakota companies during his time at Big Iron.  Lt. Governor Wrigley signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in February 2014 during a visit to China with the NDTO. The MoU established a sister-state relationship between North Dakota and Shandong Province in order to encourage trade and investment within the sectors of agriculture, clean energy, and aviation training. China has the largest market for agricultural equipment in the world, with Shandong Province ranked first in sales for agricultural machinery. This is Mr. Jia’s first visit to North Dakota and the Big Iron International Visitors Program.

The North Dakota-China relationship has been further reinforced with Mr. Jia’s visit, as well as last month’s visit by two Chinese delegations interested in soybeans and specialty crops. Recent export statistics concur, with North Dakota having already exported over $9 million of merchandise to China over the last 2 quarters, an increase of 90% from last year. As the state’s 17th largest market, China greatly increased its purchase of agricultural equipment during the first half of 2015. The sale of front end shovel loaders, tractors, harvesters, and machine parts has already totaled over $5 million alone.

Establishing formal relationships through the signing of MoUs is one method North Dakota uses to explore foreign trade and investment potential. Such agreements further develop and encourage friendships based on mutual respect and economic benefit. Governor Jack Dalrymple signed a MoU with the mayor of Telemark, Norway, Terje Riis Johansen, during the Norsk Høstfest in Minot in October 2013. This MoU established a sister-region agreement to further expand trade and cultural ties between North Dakota and Telemark, Norway. Both sides have remained committed to this agreement with a Norwegian trade mission delegation visiting North Dakota in May 2014, and an NDTO-led Nordic trade mission scheduled for October 2015.