Bay Area business leader to visit China with California governor

Updated: 2013-02-07 11:32

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily)

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California, one of the top US states in exports to China, has made a priority of attracting more incoming investment from the world's second-biggest economy.

Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council, a group of business leaders from Northern California, said he'll join Governor Jerry Brown on an official trade mission to China from April 8 to 15.

"We are excited to be partnering with Governor Brown to reopen California's trade offices in China," Wunderman said in an interview. The trip, he said, will open "a brand-new chapter in our economic partnership with one of the world's largest and fastest-growing economies. Face-to-face communication is very important for both sides".

The Bay Area Council was founded in 1945 and today has hundreds of members, including major employers in high-tech and other industries in the region. The organization operates offices in Shanghai and Hangzhou to help attract investment from China to California, boost sales by California businesses and strengthen economic links, Wunderman said.

"Looking at our member list, I think it is safe to say that 60 percent of our member companies are doing some form of business in China," he said.

Although the names of the 50 or so delegates expected to accompany Brown to China haven't been disclosed, Wunderman said most will come from the fields of renewable energy, technology, agriculture, engineering and financial services.

California will attract as much as $60 billion in Chinese investment by 2020, according to a report in October by New York-based Rhodium Group, which tracks business deals involving China. The report said the most populous state accounts for over a quarter of all Chinese investment in the US. California led the nation in the number of investments from China between 2000 and 2011, with 156, but the total value of those deals was just $1.3 billion, putting the state fifth, behind New York, Texas, Illinois and Virginia, according to Rhodium.

Through 2008, Chinese direct investment in the US was typically below $1 billion a year. Since soaring to almost $2 billion in 2009, activity has been growing fast. From January through September 2012, Rhodium said in a separate report, the figure hit $6.3 billion - more than for all of 2010, a record year.

This will be Brown's first trip to China as California governor. The visit follows a year of exchanges between high-level officials on each side.

During a February 2012 visit by China's Vice-President Xi Jinping, Brown announced his planned China trip, promising to reopen the state's trade office in Shanghai and form a China-California working group.

In May, Mike Rossi, the governor's senior adviser on jobs and business development, convened for the first time the joint economic committee between California and eastern China's Jiangsu province.

Two months later, Vice-Minister of Commerce Wang Chao led a delegation to California, followed in December by Shandong province's deputy governor, Xia Geng.

"California's exports are booming and our place in the world economy has never been stronger," Brown said in his state-of-the-state speech in January, when he also announced his China trip.

"Our ties with the People's Republic of China in particular are deep - from the Chinese immigrants crossing the Pacific in 1848 to hosting China's next president in Los Angeles last February."

The governor said his trip would be "another step to strengthen the ties between the world's second- and ninth-largest economies".

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who is Chinese-American, is also preparing to lead a business delegation to China this year, according to the head of ChinaSF, an economic-development initiative of the California city.

(China Daily 02/07/2013 page2)