Sat, Mar 10, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Montana governor shuts down Taiwan trade office

By J. Michael Cole  /  Staff Reporter

Legislators and the Montana Chamber of Commerce, who were kept in the dark about the decision, are now fighting the governor’s decision, which is being regarded as inappropriate, the official said.

“We’re all very upset and angry,” the official said, adding that the decision should not be interpreted as representing the will of the people of Montana. “This was not a decision by the people, this was just one person.”

Taiwan is one of Montana’s top five trade partners, mostly for agricultural products.

Montana State Government statistics show that total exports to Taiwan in 2010 were US$93.5 million, slightly less than the US$122.8 million to China.

Taiwan is also a major source of tourists for the state, a sector the trade office has worked very hard to develop in recent years and which could further expand once Taiwan is admitted into the visa-waiver program, possibly by the end of this year, the official said.

The official said it was doubtful that the virtual offices proposed by Schweitzer would be as effective in facilitating commerce.

“There’s a lot of discussion going on,” the official said, adding that while Schweitzer was unlikely to reverse his decision, as he had already made the announcement, the chamber of commerce and business community were trying to find possible alternatives to continue operations.

CBS News reported that Taipei was worried about the move and would send a representative to Montana yesterday for discussions with business leaders about the move.

Schweitzer’s office said there were no meetings scheduled with Taiwanese officials.

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