ROGERS — World Trade Center Arkansas CEO Denise Thomas joined national business executives and trade experts from the United States Heartland Challenge Association’s in January for a seminar on why China matters to the future success of Heartland states..
The USCHA hosted the event in an effort to allow the Heartland states to showcase their relationship with China economically, educationally and culturally. The Heartland includes much of the Midwest and the central southern states.
China is one of Arkansas’ largest trade partners, and the nation consistently ranks among the state’s top five partners going back to 2017.
In 2020, Arkansas exported $900 million in goods to China. Moreover, Arkansas exports to China supported more than 5,000 jobs in 2019, while foreign direct investment from China has totaled $125 million since 1990, according to data compiled by USHCA.
“Arkansas’ top employers, such as Walmart and Tyson, count China as their major markets,” according to a report from USCHA. “Arkansas exports to China continue to expand, with new crops such as rice added in 2021.”
The USCHA describes Arkansas as having a “healthy, two-way business ties with China” that is enriched culturally by a dual degree program between the University of Arkansas and Soochow University.
Finding a positive way to do business in China will be vital for Arkansas to be competitive in this new decade, Thomas said.
“Trading with China is crucial to building our state and national economy. We can’t not do business with them,” Thomas said. “But we need to find more creative ways for what we do and do it better.”
Bob Holden, USCHA’s chairman and CEO, added that the U.S. and China could find “hope and optimism” by forging a strong and productive bond.
“Events like this allow us to identify areas of mutual interest where we can collaborate while also respecting our differences,” Holden said.
“At this critical juncture in US-Chinese relations, the need to build bridges and not barriers is greater than ever. It is in this spirit that the US Heartland China Association intends to play a leadership role in forging and nurturing bridges to the future.”
The mission of the World Trade Center Arkansas is to grow trade and increase Arkansas exports by connecting Arkansas businesses to the world through international trade services. The center is part of the University of Arkansas and serves as the trade promotion arm for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
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