Today's interdependent global economy requires that trade policy be developed at the state and national level. Many states have recognized the opportunity for realizing significant benefits by seeking to increase trade with Israel. In fact, no less than 15 states have agreements with Israel for cooperation in areas such as agriculture, economic development, science and technology, communications and transportation. During the summer of 1992 alone, four governors went to Israel to sign agreements and expand existing ties.
"New Yorkers share heritage, history, culture and faith with Israelis, but New York State also does more than $800 million of trade with Israel each year, ranking the State of Israel as our 13th largest trading partner," Gov. Mario Cuomo noted during his first trip to the Jewish State in September 1992.
Israel and New York have had an International Partnership Program since 1989 to cooperate in economic development, science, research and technology, biotechnology and agriculture, tourism promotion, law enforcement and human services. During his visit, Cuomo signed a new agreement creating a joint New York/Israel Task Force for Economic Progress that will recommend ways for the state and Israel to work together on common economic opportunities and challenges. He also signed an agreement with the Israeli Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure for a joint energy efficiency demonstration program.
Massachusetts Governor William Weld led a trade mission to Israel that included representatives of some of the state's largest companies. "It is clear to me that Massachusetts and Israel work well together," Weld said after announcing the opening of a Massachusetts trade office in Jerusalem, the first such office in Israel. "Israel is the only country to have free trade agreements with both the U.S. and the European Community, so it can serve as a duty-free gateway into EC markets. We're actively pursuing ways to use Israel as a bridge to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Bloc, because many of the recent immigrants to Israel have maintained ties with their homelands."
Before the mission only 4 of the 17 companies represented on the trip were doing business in Israel. Afterward, a total of 13 had developed relationships. A follow-up mission was led by the Lt. Governor in May 1993.
In August 1992, Gov. David Walters brought 24 Oklahomans to Israel as part of the economic development efforts of the Oklahoma-Israel Exchange Program (OKIE). Oklahoma already had a modest trade relationship with Israel, including sales of more than $15 million worth of wheat in 1991.
New Jersey Governor Jim Florio led an 80-person delegation to Israel during the summer of 1992 and signed three new agreements. The first was designed to expand tourism by promoting business meetings, professional conventions and tours. A second agreement involved Israel sharing its fish-farming techniques with South Jersey. Finally, the Volcani Center agreed to a joint venture to develop a new variety of tomato specifically adapted to New Jersey's climate and growing conditions.
Currently, Israel is the state's fifth largest trading partner. In 1991, New Jersey's exports to Israel jumped 81 percent, to nearly $500 million.
The key to the success of any state agreement with Israel is the allocation of resources for implementation. The Florida legislature, for example, has provided funding for the Florida-Israel Institute (FII). The organization, which has successfully increased the state's trade with Israel, is also supported by its host institutions, Florida Atlantic University in Fort Lauderdale and Broward Community College.
One of the oldest and most successful state-to-state agreements is the Texas-Israel Exchange (TIE). In 1993, TIE initiated a long-term effort to plant trees in Texas and establish a Texas Forest in Israel; a group of minority agricultural producers were sent to Israel for independent field study and a visit to Agri-Tech, a high-technology international farm exposition; a Texas seed producer began negotiating a joint venture with a kibbutz that produces a type of seed developed in Israel and an Israeli company opened an office in Austin to market drip-irrigation systems in Texas (Near East Report, May 17, 1993).
Agreements may also be possible on a city-to-city basis. For example, in 1990, the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services in Philadelphia and the Director of the Department of Community and Family Services in Jerusalem agreed to a joint effort to "prevent children from coming into emergency care through the strengthening of the family and the community."
As of 1992, at least 45 American cities had "Sister City" agreements with communities in Israel.
At least 12 major cities have American-Israeli chambers of commerce.