Missouri Governor Jay Nixon planned to visit Taiwan on a trade mission this week — until the Chinese consulate and business leaders said the visit could “anger” the Chinese government and harm an airport deal with China, forcing him to scuttle the trip, reports said.
Nixon, who last year attended the signing of an agreement between Taiwanese and Missouri business groups in his office, had announced on Dec. 1 that he would head a trade mission to Taiwan and South Korea from Dec. 10 to Dec. 16. While in Taiwan, the governor was scheduled to be party to the signing of a letter of intent on a US$600 million purchase of Missouri agricultural products by the Taiwanese government, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Nixon was to be accompanied by a large delegation of government and business officials, including representatives of agricultural organizations.
One day after Nixon’s announcement, Mike Jones, chairman of the Midwest China Hub Commission (MCHC), sent the governor a letter on behalf of the commission asking that the visit be postponed. A representative of the Chinese government was afraid the trip would be received negatively in Beijing, the letter allegedly said.
“Jeffery Yang, the Chinese Consul General for the Midwest … officially contacted the MCHC to express his strong concern that your proposed visit to Taiwan would be misunderstood in Beijing and would probably affect our chances of success,” Jones’ letter said, according to the Post-Dispatch. “[T]he Board of Commissioners of the MCHC respectfully requests that you find a diplomatic way of avoiding your trip to Taiwan.”
China and St Louis are close to a deal to turn Lambert-St Louis International Airport into a freight hub. Officials said that after three years of negotiations with Beijing, they were in the final stages of talks that could bring cargo flights from China to Lambert as early as next spring. So far, three Chinese carriers have reportedly expressed interest in using the airport for commercial purposes. The central government, local governments and private businesses have been endeavoring to turn Lambert into the Chinese freight hub in the US. Local business leaders are also hoping for increased Chinese investment to the region, particularly in industries like manufacturing, biotechnology and real estate.
By late afternoon on Dec. 7, Nixon’s office issued a short press release which said: “Because of travel challenges, Gov. Nixon’s upcoming trade mission has been postponed.”