Though Idaho state Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, faces a primary challenge in just less than a month, that won't stop him and delegates from four other states from heading to Taiwan to talk about jobs, trade, and the economy.
Fulcher will travel to the Asian island along with be representatives from Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, and Alaska. Idaho taxpayers are not funding the trip. The mission will be paid for Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), which reportedly chose Fulcher due to his previous business experience in Taiwan. Fulcher is the Senate majority caucus chairman, the fourth-highest leadership position among Senate Republicans.
Gov. Butch Otter, who has visited Taiwan on trade missions several times, praised the move by Fulcher. “Frankly, I’m impressed that Russ is going,” Otter said. “He’s got a primary election in a few weeks. But instead of just talking about jobs, Fulcher is actually doing something to help our economic recovery.” Otter will visit China in June on a trade mission with leaders of several Idaho companies.
Fulcher, along with the delegates from the other states, will meet with business leaders from various economic sectors in Taiwan during the nine-day trip. For Fulcher, the Meridian Republican, the trip is about growth, economic opportunity, and collaboration between the Idaho and Taiwan. “I’m especially excited by the chance to re-connect with some of my former business partners,” he said. “Idaho businesses from a variety of industries exported $652 million worth of products to Taiwan last year, and the growth potential is huge.”
Taiwan is Idaho's second leading trading partner. In 2009, Idaho businesses sent a variety of products to Taiwan, with the majority being technology related. Idaho also sent food, agricultural goods, and building supplies.
Idaho and Taiwan began with a cooperative trade agreement in 1984. That agreement was reaffirmed in 2004. Earlier this year, upon the urging from House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, the Idaho Legislature passed a resolution honoring the state’s trade relations with Taiwan. The affinity for the partnership appears to be mutual; MOFA's website says that there exists a "profound relationship" between the nation and Idaho, and also says that the Idaho Legislature is a "close friend" of Taiwan. The state maintains a trade office in Taipei, the capitol of Taiwan, to aid trade relations. Representatives from that office report to Idaho lawmakers on an annual basis. Fulcher said he will make a special effort to examine the use of Idaho products within the Taiwanese economy.