On a day when President Joe Biden promised U.S. military support to two areas of the world that are in middle of wars — and in a land where potential geopolitical tumult could occur on any day — New Jersey made a strong statement with a ballpoint pen.
In signing three Memoranda of Understanding with Taiwan on items involving economic and educational initiatives, Gov. Phil Murphy showed Taiwan and those watching around the world that New Jersey stands with them in the best way it can — a commitment to improve their economies and the lives of their residents.
“Today’s event highlights the importance of working with partners around the world to form a stronger and fairer economy and create a better future for our children,” Murphy said Friday morning at Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
It won’t be easy. And it won’t happen without a struggle.
Andrew Gross, the director of international innovation and partnerships for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, knows this as well as anyone.
As the former head of the New Jersey-Israel Commission, he understands the issues impacting the Middle East — and paints a comparison between the world’s current hot spots in a way few have.
Israel and Taiwan are economic islands, if not necessarily physical ones, he said. The same can be said about the first two stops on the 2023 New Jersey East Asia Economic Mission — Japan and South Korea.
All of these places have either physical or economic concerns, Gross said. New Jersey’s willingness to help in all four areas speaks volumes, he said.
“All the places that we’re visiting (and have visited on previous economic missions) rely tremendously on the United States — and states just like New Jersey — to hook their economies into our very robust economies,” he said.
“The governor has shown tremendous leadership in understanding that — planting our New Jersey flag at a time when our allies are looking for not just help, but leadership.”
Indeed. The trip has been full of dozens of MOUs regarding higher education, either through research collaboration or student exchanges or both. Murphy has boasted repeatedly that seven institutions of higher education in the state are part of the delegation.
Of course, jobs and academics are not always enough.
Key thought leaders in Taiwan told the delegation that the population is watching the world — and is wondering if their island will be the next hot spot.
Walking a tight rope above a tinder box seemingly is a way of life. That’s why the New Jersey commitment means so much.
“The governor and the EDA and Choose New Jersey and everybody on this trip made a commitment to engage economically here in the middle of so much chaos that is going on in the world,” Gross said. “I think that we’ve bifurcated that.”
“There is a point where we can no longer bifurcate — a point where, God forbid, something even more horrific happens in Israel or any of these other areas,” Gross said.
“You can only go so far economically in these countries until you run into geopolitics and extreme situations. And, what I learned going into this trip is that it’s very hard to 100% divorce the geopolitics from economics.”
Murphy and New Jersey are trying.
“The governor has been very clear about our support for Israel and our allies,” Gross said. “Our willingness to go to all of these places and engage and create jobs, says a lot.”