Arizona will open a pair of new trade offices in Asia, further cementing the state’s economic ties to the region, Gov. Katie Hobbs announced on Friday. The new outposts will be in Taipei, Taiwan and Seoul, South Korea.
“These offices will be a catalyst for partnership and collaboration for decades to come,” Hobbs said. She said the move to open new offices will bolster trade in semiconductors, electric vehicles, climate technology and aerospace industries.
The announcement came at Hobbs’ International State of the State speech hosted by the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations on Friday afternoon at the Biltmore Hotel. Hundreds of attendees from governments and private industry were on hand, and the governor said that representatives of 27 countries were present.
The two new locations come on top of three trade offices in Mexico, one in Israel and one in Germany. The Arizona Commerce Authority operates the outposts.
Arizona’s economic ties to Taiwan were solidified in 2020 when Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing announced plans for a massive computer chip factory in North Phoenix and Friday’s speech underscored the ongoing importance of that project.
Of $32 billion in foreign direct investment Arizona received in 2022, $28 billion came from TSMC, the governor said. And that isn’t even the full sum the Taiwanese company is investing in the state – following an expansion announcement last year, TSMC now plans to put a total of $40 billion into the site.
Hobbs also offered a symbolic gesture of appreciation to the company: following her speech, she sat for a question-and-answer session moderated by the business’s local lobbyist, TSMC Director of State Government Relations Laura Franco French, an alum of Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego’s office.
Hobbs answered Franco’s questions alongside representatives from Mexico, Germany and Israel, and Franco also appeared eager to display a friendly relationship with the governor.
“Clearly Arizona is the place to be… tell us about how it feels to be the most exciting state in America,” Franco asked Hobbs at the start of the discussion.
Lest others feel left out, however, Hobbs also singled out the state’s largest trading partner, Mexico, for recognition in her speech
“Mexico is the strongest link in Arizona’s supply chain,” she said, particularly noting the country’s role supplying electric vehicle plants and in the fresh produce trade.
In the midst of international tensions over immigration and drug trafficking at the U.S.-Mexico border, the governor played it safe, saying Arizona’s connection to Mexico is “a relationship defined by mutual respect.”
Earlier in the week, during a visit to Arizona’s border region with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Hobbs talked about plans for collaboration with the federal government on issues including trafficking and immigration. In the first few months of the year, President Joe Biden’s administration has announced new policies that effectively amount to a crackdown on immigration and include new restriction on the asylum process.
On Friday, however, the talk was about trade and moving goods faster across the border at busy ports like Nogales.
“Reducing freight wait times and modernization at Arizona’s border is a top priority and will determine our economic prospects,” Hobbs said.
Also on Friday, Hobbs announced that another high-tech manufacturing plant that’s expanding in the metro Phoenix area: LG will boost its investment in a battery facility in Queen Creek to $5.5 billion. The company will build electric vehicle batteries at the site.
(That news first came from the Arizona Commerce Authority and Pinal County government on Friday morning, a few hours before Hobbs’ address.)
Hobbs campaigned as a relatively moderate Democrat and courted business support with policies like a pledge not to raise taxes. Friday’s event had the effect of showing how she’s followed to some extent in the footsteps of her predecessor, former Gov. Doug Ducey.
There was the emphasis on TSMC – one of Ducey’s signature projects. There was the announcement of another high-tech manufacturing investment – the kind of event that was a staple of Ducey’s tenue as governor. And there was the central role for the Arizona Commerce Authority and ACA head Sandra Watson – a ubiquitous presence at Ducey’s business events.