Opportunity knocks for states and cities

When Christine Gregoire, the US National Governors Association (NGA) chair and governor of Washington, signed the formal agreement in February with her Chinese counterpart to establish a China-US Governors Forum, she knew that the new exchange program would open more job creation opportunities for both countries.

“The governors forum is a unique opportunity for US and Chinese leaders to come together to have a meaningful exchange on a variety of topics,” Gregoire told China Daily.

“Dozens of governors have been on trade missions to China, and states are always looking for opportunities to increase trade and attract investment – both activities that can create jobs,” she explained.

Gregoire said governors are committed to promoting a “meaningful exchange” and improving relations that will create opportunities for both China and their own states. “This is a win-win opportunity for Chinese provinces, US states and both countries.”

This forum, co-convened by the NGA and the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, kicked off in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday and will end on Saturday. Being held in conjunction with the annual governors’ meeting, the conference is considered one of the major achievements of President Hu Jintao’s state visit to the United States in January.

The forum aims to promote peer-to-peer exchanges between United States governors and Chinese provincial Party secretaries and governors in areas of mutual interest.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, American state officials have been struggling with the sluggish economy and growing unemployment rate. The trade ties with China have become more important to the US local economy.

China is the largest export market for American goods outside North America. In 2010, American exports to China reached $118 billion, and many states are now more reliant on China, according to the latest US-China Business Council (USCBC) report.

“Expanding our exports is key to our economic recovery,” Gregoire said. “In my state of Washington, one in three jobs is tied to trade. It is essential that we maintain strong relationships with our trading partners.”

As dedicated as her predecessor Gary Locke was in promoting trade with China, Gregoire visited Beijing and Shanghai during her Asian trade mission soon after she took the helm in 2005.

Last September, she led a group of 80 business and community leaders on a trade mission to China where she found proof that there is demand for products from the state of Washington. She was excited to post on her website that she had found “at a market in Shanghai, Washington-grown cherries were selling for $45 a pound!”

China is now the largest trading partner for the state of Washington. According to the USCBC, Washington’s exports to China in 2010 reached $10.3 billion, a 442 percent growth over the past decade.

“Washington state and China have very strong cultural and economic ties and this delegation saw first-hand the importance of that relationship. It’s a relationship we highly value,” she said.

The two countries have been cooperating at the sub-national level for more than 10 years. In 2010 alone, there were at least eight governors and numerous other officials from US cities and towns that led trade delegations to China, according to the US State Department.

Source: China Daily

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