Letters From the West

China’s shift from world’s factory to market offers opportunity for Idaho

Idaho companies like J.R. Simplot and Micron Technology have benefited from the emergence of China as a global economic giant.

But the opportunities are going to grow dramatically for Idaho businesses as the nation of 1.4 billion people matures.

“China is moving from being the world factory to being the world market,” said Manuel Menendez, a businessman who has been making deals in China for 30 years.

This shift, along with the huge wealth that has been accumulated by individual Chinese will help nearly every segment of Idaho’s economy from agriculture to aircraft parts manufacturing to health care.

“China’s hungry and they need more and more of our products,” Menendez said.

He was the main speaker at a day-long China Business Summit at the Boise Centre on The Grove sponsored by the state and several Idaho businesses. Business executives from around Idaho came to hear ways to integrate China trade into their businesses.

Sessions looked at logistics, protecting intellectual property and financing.

Gov. Butch Otter opened the session sharing his advice gained from visits to 83 countries in 18 trade missions since 198. Both he and Menendez spoke of the importance of having partners in China who know the country and the cultural and political landscape.

“You’ve got to have someone there who is ready to speak up for you,” Otter said.

Idaho’s exports to China have risen from $700 million in 1987 — when $500 million of those were farm products — to more than $5 billion today across all sectors, Otter said.

A new book, “China Goes Global,” by David Shambaugh, recognizes Otter’s 30-year relationship with China and Idaho’s “investment-friendly state government.”


Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

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