Early this fall, leaders from about a dozen countries with exotic names like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan converged on Nebraska for an important conference that could lead to increased trade with the Cornhusker State which will expand our economy and create jobs.
These countries, along with more widely known ones such as Russia, Ukraine and Bulgaria, who were also here, are in Eurasia and are among the countries that once made up the Soviet Union.
It was hard to imagine that we were having this conference to discuss ways of doing business together so near to the headquarters of the former Strategic Air Command that watched over those old Soviet countries during the Cold War.
But, like we did with former adversaries such as Japan, Germany and Vietnam, the U.S. is constantly to expand our trading partners. I was very pleased to speak to the conference because one of the most effective ways to forge new relationships that also promote cooperation is through trade where everyone benefits.
In 1990, when Nebraskans elected me governor one of my goals was to take advantage of the dramatic political changes that came about at the end of the Cold War and try to increase trade.
No governor before me had led a trade mission overseas, but I thought they would be mutually beneficial for Nebraskans and our new trading partners.
During eight years as governor, Nebraska's international exports more than doubled, from $868 million in 1990 to more than $2 billion in 1998. I led eight trade missions overseas that resulted in at least $47.5 million in sales and investment for Nebraska business.
The increased trade was good for Nebraska as it expanded our economy and created jobs. That's what we're hoping to do by increasing trade with Eurasian countries like Russia, which is the United States' 23rd largest goods and trading partner.
Vehicles, machinery, poultry, red meat and other goods are flowing back and forth between our countries, benefitting Americans and Russians every day with $36 billion in total two-way trade during 2008, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
Eurasia represents a tremendous opportunity for the U.S., not only in trade but in nuclear stability. The Cold War is over but there are still plenty of nuclear missiles in our countries whose numbers need to be reduced. The new START Treaty, which would do just that, is now pending before the Senate.
It is supported by the current commander at StratCom as well as 7 past commanders and the Secretary of Defense whom I agree with wholeheartedly when he says the world will be safer with the treaty than without it.
I have a lot of hope for the future. Friendly meetings like the one we had in Middle America between former adversaries to pursue common goals provides that optimism. It shows that determined efforts of many people can make the world a better place for all of us to live.