LePage to lead trade delegation to China

Gov. Paul LePage has just announced he will lead a trade delegation to China, his first overseas mission as governor and the first time a sitting Maine governor visits mainland China.

The mission, according to the governor’s office, will begin in Hong Kong and then visit Shanghai and its surrounding areas, focusing on inward investment attraction, education and export opportunities.

“We are going where the growth and opportunity is for Maine’s major industry sectors,” said LePage in a release. “Asia represents an increasingly important market for our natural resource products including pulp and paper, forestry, agricultural and seafood products.”

According to the release:

China offers enormous opportunities for Maine. Last year China officially overtook Japan to become the world’s second largest economy, and is implementing a domestic spending program to further support and develop its internal consumer demand, which will continue to drive interest in imported products. U.S. exports to China reached record levels last year at $103.8 billion; the market now represents the state’s third largest foreign market with $275 million of Maine products exported in 2011.

“This will be a horizontal mission,” said Maine International Trade Center president Janine B. Cary. “We have been getting increased demand across all sectors for trade assistance related to China. We believe this will be a very successful mission for manufacturers as well as service providers.”

LePage was schedule to lead his first trade mission last fall, to Chile and Brazil, but he backed out and chose instead to focus on the 2012-2013 supplemental budget.

Each company that goes on a gubernatorial trade mission pays for its own employees and the costs also cover the expenses of the governor and his security officer. Typically, having the state’s top executive on the mission opens doors for companies seeking to open or broaden their markets.

The trade center tracks company sales that can be attributed to the trade missions. By and large, the gubernatorial trade missions have more companies participating, and so generate more in sales. For example, in fiscal year 2004, a gubernatorial trade mission generated $6.5 million in sales for Maine companies, while missions without a governor generated $2 million. Likewise, a 2006 mission Gov. John Baldacci led to France generated $5 million, while nongubernatorial missions brought in $200,000.

That’s the general theme, though nongubernatorial missions brought in $6.5 million in 2008, while a Baldacci-led mission to South Korea and Japan brought only $3 million in sales.

In the past, governors have lead trade missions to Ireland, England, France, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Canada, South Korea, Japan and other countries.

The China mission, which is open to all Maine-based companies, will run from September 9–15.