Rick Snyder seeks to woo China trade, giant pandas

Updated: 2014-11-13 12:13

By Chen Weihua in Washington(China Daily USA)

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Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is leading his fourth trade mission to China next week. This time, he hopes to score a pair of giant pandas for Michigan.

The weeklong China trade mission starts Nov 19 and goes to several Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Tom Watkins, who advises the state of Michigan on its relations with China, said the governor reached out to the Michigan Chinese-American community and has been methodically building bridges with China since he was first elected four years ago. Snyder, a Republican with a business background, defeated Democrat Mark Schauer on Nov 4 to win re-election.

"The governor is seeking ways to develop a relationship with China, not simply for short-term economic gain but to build a lasting relationship," said Watkins, who serves on the task force seeking a loan of the pandas for the city of Detroit.

Watkins believes having pandas in Detroit would bring Michigan and China closer together and create opportunities for Michigan's people and neighboring states and Canada to learn more about China.

"This creates an atmosphere where we all can prosper," Watkins told China Daily on Monday.

Watkins said the panda request is still in an early stage, and a request will be made when issues of economy, logistics, the well-being of the pandas, education, research and funding are taken into consideration.

Only four zoos in the US host giant pandas on loan from China. They are in Washington; Atlanta, Georgia; San Diego, California; and Memphis, Tennessee.

Watkins said having the pandas in Detroit would be another step toward rebuilding a great American city that has just emerged from bankruptcy.

Rick Snyder seeks to woo China trade, giant pandas

In July 2013, Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, making it the largest US city to have done so. But the Motor City is now ready to emerge from that condition as US Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Rhodes approved the city's plan of adjustment on Nov 7.

Snyder told China Daily in a prior interview that going to China every year has been a big deal for him, saying Michigan is seeing reciprocal interest from China.

"The automotive industry is leading that in many respects," Snyder said in the July 31 interview.

He cited the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp for setting up North America headquarters in Birmingham, Michigan, and also touted the state's strong research and development capacity, especially in the auto industry.

With 375 auto R&D centers, Michigan supplies 75 percent of North American R&D for the entire auto industry, according to Snyder.

Michigan has received more than $1 billion in total cumulative Chinese foreign direct investment since 2000. More than 100 Chinese companies have invested in Michigan, many in the auto industry and some in real estate and information technology.

China is the state's third-largest export market after Canada and Mexico. In 2013, Michigan exports to China totaled more than $4.1 billion.

Watkins said four more years of Snyder as governor will help strengthen the Michigan-China relationship and build the guanxi (connections) necessary to grow jobs and investment in China and Michigan.

Thousands of Chinese students are studying at universities in Michigan, while the Chinese language is being taught at four Confucius Institutes and other schools in Michigan.

Snyder is among a growing number of US governors looking to China for business opportunities, both in exports and in attracting Chinese investment.

In September, Texas Governor Rick Perry visited China and signed a Memorandum of Understanding between his state and Tianjin, Fujian, Shandong, Jiangsu and Sichuan to develop a wide range of cooperation.

Texas' $10.4 billion in exports to China in 2013, a 118 percent increase from the previous year, put it third among the 50 states, behind California and Washington.

Texas also ranked second to California as a recipient of Chinese investment from 2000 through the end of June, according to New York-based Rhodium Group, which tracks Chinese FDI in the US.

In September, Montana Governor Steve Bullock led a trade mission on an eight-day trip to China that included stops in Beijing, Shanghai and Montana's sister-state, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

China, one of Montana's fastest-growing export markets, is Montana's third largest trade partner. Its exports to China increased almost tenfold in the last decade, with $101 million of commodity goods sold to China in 2013, according to the governor's office.

In July, Virginia Governor Terry McCauliffe took his first international trade mission to China since taking office in January.

He met with Chinese business executives, including those from Tranlin Paper Co in East China's Shandong province. Tranlin announced a $2 billion investment in Chesterfield County in Virginia, which is expected to create 2,000 manufacturing jobs.


(China Daily USA 11/13/2014 page1)