February 17, 2023

Sen. Duckworth to lead delegation to Indonesia, Japan



SPRINGFIELD — While on a congressional trip to South Korea last summer, Sen. Tammy Duckworth was drinking coffee with a vice president at LG Corp when she made an offhand remark that had more impact than she could have known at the time. 

The remark, about the geology that makes Illinois uniquely positioned for carbon sequestration, ended up being the catalyst for sparking a larger conversation that culminated months later with LG announcing a partnership with Archer Daniels Midland Co. to construct facilities in Decatur that will produce thousands of tons of environmentally-friendly ingredients.

Once constructed, the facility is expected to create 125 jobs in Decatur.

Duckworth, in an interview with Lee Enterprises Thursday afternoon, said it is just one example of the value of such congressional trips. 

"It's a sign of commitment, but then those conversations that evolve organically when you're face to face and you're just talking to one another can leap into very productive avenues," Duckworth said. 

"In those conversations, you pick up things that you don't always pick up just looking at spreadsheets and data," she added.

Duckworth hopes her next trip will be just as productive.

Illinois' junior senator will lead another congressional delegation to the Indo-Pacific region, traveling to Japan on Saturday and later to Indonesia.

While in Japan, Duckworth will meet with officials from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to discuss possible investment in the U.S. for hydrogen technologies and with officials from Toyota to talk about the importance of biofuels.

Biofuels and agriculture roundtables will also be held.

She will also meet with Mitsubishi Logisnext to discuss future investment opportunities and DMG Mori to discuss the cutting machine manufacturer's partnership with the Illinois Institute of Technology to develop an advanced manufacturing center. 

Another possibility, but not confirmed, is a meeting with Panasonic about Illinois' role in the electric vehicle and battery manufacturing space. 

While in Indonesia, Duckworth will meet with ADM to discuss the company's presence in the country and additional expansion opportunities, her office said.

Duckworth said her main focus on the trip will be "selling Illinois" and "encouraging greater investment in the United States."

But Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran long considered an influential voice on national security and who now has a seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the trip will also serve as a projection of "soft power" as the United States enters a greater level of competition with China. 

"We really need to present an alternative to the People's Republic of China as (they are) trying to engage and have a greater presence in the region — and we need to offset that," Duckworth said. "And as we do so, it creates an opportunity in especially agriculture and tech sector for us to support those industries in the United States." 

Relations between the U.S. and China have long been tense, but hit an especially rough patch when a suspected Chinese spy balloon entered U.S. airspace late last month. 

The balloon crossed the country before the military shot it down off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4. Duckworth, who, along with other lawmakers, received a top-secret briefing on the matter, said President Joe Biden made the right call to wait until the balloon was over the ocean.

"I think the decision to wait until it was over the ocean but still in American sovereign waters was the right one," she said. "That way we have the rights to recover it and gain what we need to gain in terms of intelligence from it without endangering the American population — because you just don't know when you hit something like that where that debris field is gonna fall."

As competition for influence grows in the Indo-Pacific and around the world, Duckworth said the U.S. can counter China with its economic power.

"I think this is just as important, especially when you think about what we learned during a pandemic about how much of the world's global supply chain is based in (China), and we need to diversify that and not be so reliant on a single country," Duckworth said. 

Also joining Duckworth on the trip are Nancy Huynh, a senior official in Gov. J.B. Pritzker's administration; Dan Seals, the CEO of Intersect Illinois, the state's public-private economic development arm; and members of the Illinois Corn Growers Association. 

By:  Brenden Moore