Although the future of Taiwan may not be foremost in the hearts and minds of Wyoming residents, some state lawmakers believe the small Asian country could play a pivotal role not only in the future for Wyoming, but America.
Senate Joint Resolution 7, sponsored by state Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, has no legal binding authority, but resolves Wyoming to stand in solidarity with Taiwan as China has recently ramped up threats against its neighbor.
Taiwan ranks as the eighth largest trading partner with the United States and sixth largest export destination for U.S. agricultural goods, with bilateral trade between the nations reaching an estimated $114 billion in 2021.
“I proudly stand behind this one,” Driskill told the House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s really a good relationship for the United States and their relationship with Communist China.”
China claims Taiwan a province of the People’s Republic of China, while Taiwan maintains that it is an independent country as the Republic of China. The tensions has included threats of military action.
Wyoming has passed a handful of resolutions of solidarity with Taiwan in the past, but this year’s effort carries a heightened level of significance.
The U.S. has vowed to stand in solidarity with Taiwan against foreign aggression from China.
Last year, a visit from former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, prompted the People’s Liberation Army to conduct unprecedented military drills around Taiwan and temporarily caused China to shut down lines of communication with the U.S.
Tensions also have increased between China and the U.S. in the last week after Beijing flew an alleged spy balloon across the continental U.S. It then accused President Joe Biden’s administration of overreacting for shooting the balloon down over the Atlantic Ocean.
There were three bills drafted in this year’s Legislature prohibiting foreign ownership of agricultural land in Wyoming, with Chinese ownership specifically outlawed in one.
Standing In Solidarity
Wyoming adopted Taiwan as a “sister state” in 1984, which makes the nation “a critical partner for us to be able to stand up to Communists and to China,” Driskill said.
The Wyoming-Asia Pacific Trade Office was established in Taipei, Taiwan, in September 2018 after approval by the Wyoming Legislature. The mission of the office is to promote trade in agriculture, technology, tourism and education. Wyoming is the seventh state to establish a foreign trade office in Taiwan.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Education and Wyoming’s Department of Education signed a memorandum of understanding on educational cooperation last year to further promote teacher and student exchanges and cultural awareness.
“They trade students back and forth,” Driskill said. “It works really well for them.”
A Beef With Wyoming
During an interview for Wyoming Livestock Roundup after a 2017 trip to Taiwan, Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna identified Taiwan as “one of the most important countries in Southeast Asia” for Wyoming beef.
A large shipment of beef was delivered to the country around that time, which Magagna said was a high-priced commodity for restaurants there.
Driskill agreed with this sentiment Tuesday, saying Wyoming beef is a highly desirable product for that market. Magagna said the Taiwanese hold a strong connotation between Wyoming beef and Yellowstone National Park and Western heritage.
“It’s an opportunity waiting to happen for us in Wyoming,” Magagna said.
But Magagna also told the committee Tuesday that Wyoming beef is not being sent to Taiwan now because the state lacks the necessary beef processing facilities.
“If we ever get to that point, that market remains very open for us,” he said. “I still hope to see the day when they become a major importer of Wyoming beef.”
Legacy Meats in Cody recently received a $1 million grant and $926,288 loan request from the Wyoming Business Council to expand its facilities to process up to 100 head of cattle a day once the expansion is complete.
“That may be the little door that opens to enable us to start that again,” Magagna said.
‘Beef To Booze’
Driskill said everything from “beef to booze” cycles between the two countries.
Ron Gullberg, Strategic Partnerships Director for the Business Council, said there is interest in Taiwan for craft distilled alcohol made in Wyoming.
“They like Wyoming products and they like Wyoming people,” Driskill said.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Taiwan donated 50,000 medical masks to Wyoming.
“Probably now more than any time in history, Taiwan … really needs the show of support,” Driskill said. “Taiwan is an unbelievable friend of the United States.”
SJ 7 passed the Senate on a 29-1 vote and unanimously passed through the House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee on Tuesday afternoon. It advances to the House floor for discussion.