Arkansas Economic Development Commission

AEDC Director Discusses U.S.-China Rice & Beef Trade, NAFTA Negotiations

August 14, 2017

AEDC Director Mike Preston discusses NAFTA agreement and U.S. & China Rice and Beef TradeMike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), recently appeared on Talk Business & Politics to discuss how recent trips to China are increasing global business expansion in Arkansas. Preston traveled to China with Governor Asa Hutchinson to recruit potential manufacturers and to open additional agricultural markets for the state. 

Their travels have not only paid dividends for Arkansas manufacturing and timber, but also for agriculture. Beef and rice exports have opened back up in China, which has been a game-changer for the state’s economy and its farmers. Arkansas is the top rice producing state in the U.S. and is home to Stuttgart-based Riceland Foods, one of the biggest rice marketers in America. Springdale-based Tyson Foods is one of the biggest beef producers in the world and has operations in China. 

During Preston’s tenure at AEDC, Arkansas has landed three major Chinese-based manufacturing prospects – Tianyuan Garment Company in Little Rock, Shandong Ruyi in Forrest City and Sun Paper near Arkadelphia. Gov. Hutchinson and Preston are planning another trip to China in hopes that they can open more markets and bring new economic projects to the state. 

Though economic development in Arkansas is thriving, some countries are concerned about potential changes to free trade. President Trump has served notice that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should be reworked. Many are worried about how those potential changes could effect investments in the U.S. 

Some global companies are putting their business plans on hold until they see what will happen with NAFTA. To ease concerns about the two-decade old agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, Gov. Hutchinson signed a letter advocating an “open investment” policy for the state. The governor said several European countries expressed concerns about President Trump’s trade rhetoric and he wanted to assure partners that Arkansas remains open to foreign investment, which accounts for about 46,000 workers statewide. 

Preston does agree that NAFTA could use an update, but wants to make sure that the changes will not hurt trade here in Arkansas. The main message he wants to express to companies around the world is that Arkansas remains open for business.

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