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Butch Otter

At the SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, DC, in June, Idaho governor Butch Otter told Natasha Turak how the state gets business done quickly and efficiently, and discussed why 'equal' trade is more important than free trade for the US.

Q: Every state is here at the SelectUSA Investment Summit to promote themselves. What does Idaho have that other states don’t have? 

A: We’ve got a will to make things happen. Our theme in Idaho is: we move at the speed of business. Let me give you one example. We had a company that came into Idaho and wanted to build a 1 million-square-foot [92,100-square-metre] plant. It’s called Chobani yogurt. It spent $450m, and put 1 million square feet under one roof, all the yogurt equipment in there, making yogurt, 326 days a year. The company was started in New York in 2005, by a Turkish fellow by the name of Hamdi Ulukaya, and he really has seen some tremendous increases in his market. In fact, in the year before he came to Idaho there was a 300% increase in the demand for his product.

So one of the things we pride ourselves in is that we make things happen. We make them happen very rapidly, and just as Idaho’s secretary of commerce reminded me, we are one of the fastest growing states in the US, economically. We are getting a lot of capital in the state but we’re also number one in job growth, even in a hi-tech world. This is significant because usually where you add a lot of technology, which we can do, you have fewer employees. But we’re actually adding the jobs and the technology just as a result of pure volume.

Q: As a Republican governor, how do you feel about presidential candidate Donald Trump’s protectionist rhetoric with regard to free trade?

A: I believe that Donald Trump believes in the magic of the marketplace. And the marketplace ought to be the decision area where we decide which products are successful, which services are successful, what kind of public policy is successful. These things that we have found that we have to subsidise into existence generally are failures. So if the marketplace is demanding it, the marketplace will supply it. We should let that magic happen.

Q: Do you think his statements against free-trade agreements are harmful to US FDI?

A: I really think that when Mr Trump speaks about some trade agreements, it’s more in regard to the implementation of those trade agreements. When we are adopting trade agreements, we usually adopt them in an environment and a public persona of equal free trade. But when we implement them, we restrict the US producer more than we restrict the country that’s doing the importing. And so what we want to see is those restrictions both ways, or freedom both ways.

But we always have found ourselves – and I’ve done business in 83 countries – being displaced in the 'equal' trade, because somebody has a competitive advantage, either because of their company policies or because of some artificial trade barriers that they may be putting on US products going into their economy. I don’t think if given equal and fair trade, as well as free trade – that’s a misnomer – that you’re going to out-produce, out-perform, out-quality the US producer.

Q: So you think a Trump presidency would be good for FDI?

A: I think if it’s good for the economy, it’s going to be good for the citizens of the US, it’s going to be good for the future of the US.

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This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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