DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa companies and organizations have signed 20 cooperative trade agreements with counterparts from Hebei, solidifying a 30-year sister city relationship between the U.S. state and the Chinese province.
The value of business investment involved in each cooperative agreement was not disclosed by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, but the agency's officials estimated the total at $1 billion.
Larry Zimpleman, CEO of Principal Financial Group, said the deals will mean jobs and business investment in China and Iowa.
"It means jobs, absolutely," Zimpleman said. "It means investment here in Iowa, and it means access to huge Chinese markets that we would not otherwise have an opportunity to be involved in."
Principal, an insurance company and retirement plan provider, hopes to play a role in China's developing pension system. The Des Moines company is investing heavily in emerging economies and has enjoyed a joint venture with the China Construction Bank since 2005.
Other business executives attending Tuesday's signing ceremony in Des Moines also believe the deals are important for their businesses and the state because of China's emerging market.
"We've talked about them as an emerging nation for 30 years, but now their middle class is for real, and they're ready to buy things," said Steven E. Sukup, chief financial officer of Sukup Manufacturing. The Sheffield-based manufacturing company is seeking opportunities to sell its grain bins and dryers in China. Sukup was passing out business cards Tuesday with English and Chinese characters.
The deals signed Tuesday highlight a yearlong celebration of the Iowa-Hebei Sister State relationship initiated in 1983. Nearly 200 Chinese delegates descended on Iowa this week as part of the celebration.
The business agreements include a deal between Shijiazhuang Tianquan Breeding Cattle Co. Ltd. and Iowa Trans Ova Genetics to set up a project to promote breeding dairy cows.
Pan Asia International of Beijing and Iowa Hy-Line International will jointly construct a demonstration project of breeding laying hens, and Hebei Xinglong Grain Biochemical Co. Ltd. and Iowa Kent Nutrition Group agreed to jointly build a corn starch processing project.
China is one of Iowa's largest trading partners. The state exported $751 million worth of products to the growing nation last year, including machinery, vehicles, processed meat, cereal, and animal feed.
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