Leaders eye trade opportunities

Updated: 2011-10-19 07:58

By Tan Yingzi (China Daily)

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Leaders eye trade opportunities
Tourists watch the sunset at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, in December 2010. The beach, on the south shore of the island of Oahu, is a popular tourist destination. Provided to China Daily

WASHINGTON - To help spur exports to China and boost domestic employment, six US governors will visit China to explore trade opportunities with their Chinese counterparts.

Their visit follows the attendance of four Chinese provincial leaders at the US-China Governors Forum, held in Utah's Salt Lake City in July.

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Starting on Wednesday in Beijing, the second session of the forum will continue to help the sub-national governments of both countries get acquainted with each other and establish exchanges in trade, culture and education.

The forum, jointly convened by the US National Governors Association (NGA) and the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), was one of the major achievements of President Hu Jintao's visit to the US in January.

Xie Yuan, director of Department of American and Oceanian Affairs at the CPAFFC, said that improving sub-national level economic cooperation and local employment would be the main topics for both Chinese and US governors during the talks.

"Even though the US federal government has been keen to cut the high domestic unemployment rate and boost its flagging economy, the overall result hasn't been very encouraging. Gaining Chinese trade orders and investment could help these US governors to win concrete political support in their states," Xie said.

Xie said some Chinese provinces are also thirsty for US resources, green energy technology, scientific cooperation and agricultural products.

The governors of Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, Guam and Northern Mariana Islands will visit Beijing on a delegation led by Washington Governor Christine Gregoire.

"To grow jobs and economic growth - we know we have to reach out to our international business partners. That's who's buying our products right now," Gregoire said in a news release.

China is now the largest trading partner of Washington State. Washington's exports to China in 2010 reached $10.3 billion, up 442 percent over the last decade, according to a report from the US-China Business Council.

The governor led a delegation of 80 business and community leaders to China last September and she has seen great benefits from such trips.

"We have to be aggressive. With the amount of global competition - we can't sit back and wait for international prospects to come to us," she said.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, US state officials have been struggling with the sluggish economy and growing unemployment. As a result, trade ties with China have become increasingly important to the US economy.

China is the largest export market for US goods outside North America.

For instance, China is the second-largest export market of both Georgia and North Carolina, with total exports worth $1.8 billion in 2009. Their growth in exports to China was over 400 percent between 2000 and 2009, while it was only 51 percent and 14 percent respectively to the rest of the world.

Georgia's main exports include paper products, processed foods and transportation equipment. In addition, 16 Chinese companies have invested in the southern state, employing more than 524 local workers.

North Carolina mainly exports computers and electronics, chemicals, nonmetallic mineral products and agricultural goods.

Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie and Guam Governor Eddie Calvo told China Daily that they hope to attract more tourists from China.

On the Chinese side, provincial governments can gain more access to overseas markets through the forum. In July, governors from Zhejiang, Anhui, Yunnan and Qinghai provinces presented their region to more than 20 US governors. In addition, 15 states had one-on-one meetings with Chinese governors, and more than 20 deals were signed.

Former US trade representative Charlene Barshefsky praised such local exchanges.

"The real sources of economic activity and sources of jobs are located in states or provinces," she told China Daily.

"Having much more participation of these sub-national entities in negotiations, programs, and exchanges is absolutely the right thing to do."