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Virginia opens new trade office in Taiwan

Youngkin speaks at a podium surounded by elected officials
Shaban Athuman
VPM News File
Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond prior to singing the state budget on Sept. 14.

It joins existing trade offices run by the state in Germany, Japan and South Korea.

Virginia opened a new trade office in Taiwan on Tuesday, the latest sign Gov. Glenn Youngkin aims to prioritize the island. Youngkin signed an executive order creating the office in Taipei — the capital city — when he visited in April.

The office will help companies in both Virginia and Taiwan find new business opportunities, joining similar Virginia trade offices in Germany, Japan and South Korea. The Taipei office will be staffed with one employee, according to Suzanne Clark, spokesperson for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

The office will be funded for the time being using VEDP’s existing operating budget. The agency will request more funding in the governor’s next budget, according to Clark.

The General Assembly passed a bill earlier this year asking VEDP to conduct a cost-benefit analysis on opening a trade office in Taiwan, but stopped short of mandating it — as the proposal’s sponsor, Sen. Bryce Reeves (R–Spotsylvania), originally sought.

Youngkin’s embrace of Taiwan comes as he’s taken a hardline stance against neighboring China — a far larger trading partner with Virginia, according to state data.

Youngkin did business with Chinese companies in his previous job as co-CEO of the Carlyle Group. In 2019, he told Bloomberg he was “long-term bullish on China.”

But he struck a harder note during the 2021 gubernatorial primaries, with one ad saying he’d worked with then-President Donald Trump to “stand up to China.”

Earlier this year, the Republican governor pulled Virginia from the running for a $3.5-billion-dollar Ford battery plant in Southside. Youngkin said the auto maker’s partnership with a Chinese business represented a national security threat.

Some Virginia Democrats criticized the move, arguing the posture is part of a potential presidential bid.

Taiwan’s role as a tech hub and chip manufacturer make it a good future bet for Virginia’s corresponding industries, according to Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington. And Farnsworth said Youngkin’s political calculus may also be a factor.

“Getting more engaged in one of the world's hotspots helps build his international profile,” Farnsworth said.


Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.