CHEYENNE — With Wyoming exports on the rise, Gov. Matt Mead wants to push the needle further during an 11-day trip to Taiwan and South Korea beginning Oct. 9.
The highlight of the trip is likely to be Mead's address at the WorldEnergy Congress in South Korea. This event, which takes place every three years, is considered the largest and most influential global gathering involving energy issues.
Mead's wife and two children will be accompanying him on the trip at his expense, the governor’s spokesman, Renny MacKay, said Tuesday. Also making the journey will be Tony Young, the governor's deputy chief of staff, and Nathan Nicholas, one of his policy advisers.
The rest of the cost of the trip will come from a $250,000 fund the Legislature set up earlier this year for foreign trade programs.
Carl Jensen, the director of the Wyoming Business Council, said the trip will be energy and tourism related. Mead will attend the Taipei International Travel Fair, Taiwan's largest travel industry trade show.
Tourism is likely to increase since the United States changed its policy for Taiwanese tourists to allow them to visit America without visas. The Wyoming Board of Tourism will represent Wyoming at the travel fair.
Jensen recently traveled to South Korea for preliminary meetings with officials of some of the Korean and Japanese companies that Mead will see on his trip. Accompanying Jensen was Nicholas, the policy adviser, and Rep. David Miller, R-Riverton, who has business connections with South Korean and Japanese companies.
"So we were received very well," Jensen said Tuesday. "I think there are a number of opportunities that will come about with those countries and Wyoming products in the future." "We want to let them know we can be a better partner for them and we have a lot of mutual opportunities for both to benefit." Jensen said he won't be going on the governor's trip.
Mead has gone on only a couple of other foreign trade-related journeys. He went to China in 2012 to speak at the Advanced Coal Technologies Conference, and in June he visited coal ports in the Northwest United States and Canada.
The payoffs of the trips are not immediate. "These are long-term relation development projects." Jensen said. "You don't just go over and make a sale in Asian countries."
"You have to establish a relationship. They have to be able to trust you and know that you're committed," he said. "We're on the front end of those conversations."
Jensen said it is important to carry through on these relationships in the years to come. "These are new markets. We have to take time to develop them, but they will be lucrative for Wyoming in the long term," he said.
In 2012, Wyoming was ranked seven out of 11 states that achieved double-digit growth in exported goods, rising from $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion, according to the U.S. International Trade Association. Yet, the state still ranks 49th in the nation in exported goods.
In addition to prospects for Wyoming's energy resources and tourism, the visit may prompt deals to buy more Wyoming agricultural products. The delegation will be meeting in Taiwan with people interested in Wyoming beef and wheat projects. That could open the door for more beef imports from Wyoming, MacKay said.