Israel forged a major economic pact with Arkansas on Tuesday to share research and technology, especially for agriculture, broadening a trade relationship between the two worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Though his state contains one of the smallest Jewish populations in the nation, Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson (R.) celebrated the trade agreement for bringing closer ties with Israel, which he called "a critical ally." Trade between the two was valued at more than $100 million last year, and both have enjoyed agricultural and scientific research grants worth more than $400,000 since the start of their partnership. In 2017, Hutchinson passed a law prohibiting Arkansas from working with companies that support the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. He told the Washington Free Beacon their new memorandum of understanding reflects Arkansas’s ongoing "friendship" with the Jewish state.
"This is a mutually beneficial partnership between two leaders in innovation," Hutchinson said. "The agreement builds on the momentum we have created for the past eight years to develop a tech-based workforce that can meet the needs of a 21st century economy. In addition, this agreement allows us to strengthen our relationship with a critical ally to the United States."
Israel has become a world leader in agricultural technology, investing heavily over the years in its high-tech sector, which now accounts for 15 percent of its GDP. Though more than half of its land area is desert and it lacks water resources, the Jewish state has learned to produce some of the highest yields of agricultural products, including cow milk and tomatoes, of any nation in the world. The success has made others take note in an effort to boost their own agricultural industries. Agriculture is Arkansas’s largest industry, adding around $16 billion to the state’s economy annually.
Israel and Arkansas have enjoyed an economic partnership for the past 40 years that has added billions to the U.S. economy, according to a 2019 review of one agricultural grant program between the nations.
"Israel is a country that has almost no water resources needed for agriculture and no traditional automotive industry, yet, with a uniquely successful technological innovation ecosystem, we have created booming agro-tech and smart mobility sectors that include hundreds of companies and startups that are among the leading in their respective fields worldwide," said Dr. Ami Appelbaum, a chairman of the board of the Israel Innovation Authority who attended the signing event. "It’s a collaboration between similar states that have very similar challenges, as the governor mentioned: agriculture, medical, and of course, the autonomous transportation."
"It's going to make a big difference in the future of mobility and how quickly we can improve our supply chains," Hutchinson said.