Time to rethink our thoughts on trade?

| For USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

This past summer has been one of major changes in thoughts and actions on world trade and the future of major sectors of the economy such as agriculture. It appears many in the west want to withdraw from trade in the international marketplace.

I was in western Canada this past summer and was asked by Canadians about the direction of the United States in world trade and other issues that involve the United States in this world. The headlines of Canadian newspapers at the time also were filled with the Brexit vote and the impact of how the vote by the British to pull back from major trade agreements of the past may harm Canadian farmers and agribusinesses.

The Wall Street Journal featured several stories in early July on how the west was retreating from world trade and how China was capitalizing on this retreat.

How is this large shift going to impact the Midwest? Will less land need to be farmed? Will the world need less farmers in the Midwest? Will there be a decline in employment of those involved in farm supply cooperatives, less need for food production workers? Will there be a need for fewer workers to be employed in transportation and the exporting of farm products?

I do not have the answers to all of those questions, but there does appear to be a shift in thought on global trade. But I do suggest we who are involved in agriculture need to think over the direction we are moving. Perhaps now is the time to think about making a shift in how we trade and market in the world.

Beginning with this thought: UnionPay, a Chinese bank card, is the most widely held and fastest growing bank card in the world. There are 5.5 billion UnionPay debit and credit cards issued in the world; that is more than the combined number of Visa and MasterCard bank cards issued.

In 2015, $8.8 trillion in debit and credit card purchases were made with UnionPay. That amount was an increase of 30 percent from the prior year. It appears Chinese consumers and Chinese banking companies are taking real advantage of major growth opportunities.

What can Midwest farmers and state governments do considering this major growth in Chinese consumers and bank advancements? Consider this: China is now the world’s largest source of tourism spending!

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Perhaps Wisconsin and Minnesota state governments should work with the agriculturalists on promoting Chinese tourism. Perhaps Chinese tourists could tour farms and other major tourism attractions. One example could be a Packers/Brewers package that includes a tour and on-farm lunch at a Wisconsin dairy farm and a beef farm and wrap up with a visit to the Twin Cities and a tour of a Minnesota vineyard.

Another example would be a tour of a Wisconsin brewery, a Wisconsin grain farm that supplies the brewer, a visit to a hop producer and a Minnesota hog farm. Tourists could enjoy great grilled pork chops on a local farm or enjoy the best ice cream sundae on a Wisconsin dairy farm.

These are just a few of some ideas that could be implemented. In Canada, they estimate 500,000 Chinese tourists visit annually, and growth has been doubling every few years. If 50,000 tourists from China visited the Midwest in one summer, that may sell more than a few pork chops, gallons of ice cream and farm tours of orchards and vineyards.

State governments could promote tourism, develop a direct flight of Chinese tourists to Green Bay, Rochester and Madison for example. State government could assist in getting technical schools to train agriculturalists on how to market and develop experiences that Chinese tourists may enjoy. There appear to be Chinese tourists that are looking to learn more and see more of this great world we all live and work in.

Bob Panzer is an employee of United FCS of Wausau, in the risk management department; any views or opinions presented in this column are solely those of the author. Panzer may be reached at 920-539-8728.

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