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Gov. Gregoire arrives in Seoul, promotes Washington potato products

For Immediate Release: October 10, 2012

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today arrived in Seoul, South Korea where she continued to promote Washington state industries and products to potential investors and attract new opportunities for job growth. She and her delegates attended a life sciences seminar, met with business leaders, and marketed Washington potato products at a Popeye’s franchise.

“I wish every Washingtonian could see the success of our potato promotions,” Gregoire said. “It doesn’t matter what country I’m in, when I offer samples of Washington-grown potato products consumers reach for more. And these promotions are certainly working. In fact, the Washington French fry market grew by $7 million between 2010 and 2011. And we know there is potential for additional growth.”

“From $54 million in U.S. exports last year, the newly-enacted U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement could see the market for U.S. processed potatoes grow to over $75 million. Washington is already a major supplier of French fries and other frozen potato products to Korean consumers. That success will translate into strengthening our Washington economy and providing jobs from the farm to fork,” said Matt Harris of the Washington Potato Commission.

Washington cherry growers have already seen success after the adoption of the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement. Following the signing, the tariff on Washington cherries went from 24 percent to zero overnight. In the very first cherry season without import duties, cherry sales to Korea nearly doubled, jumping 86 percent to $23 million. Korean families purchased 665,000 20-pound cartons of fresh Washington cherries this summer.

Gregoire today also attended a life sciences seminar where she witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association and the Korean International Trade Association. KITA was established in 1946 with the objective of advancing the Korean economy through trade and is currently the largest business organization in Korea with more than 71,000 member companies.

Washington’s life sciences sector is one of the state’s largest and fastest growing job sectors, with a presence in nearly 70 different cities, adding $10.4 billion to our state’s GDP and $6.6 billion in personal income to our local economy.

“Agreements like this one with KITA establish a cornerstone for our companies and research organizations to make inroads into some of the world’s fastest growing health care markets, which are also investing billions of dollars into biotech and biomedical research, development and commercialization,” said Chris Rivera, President of WBBA. “Our delegation is quite diverse, with representation from local companies and non-profits that already have international ties and others looking to begin relationships. We look forward to returning home and hosting future meetings with our newly found colleagues that will continue to grow one of Washington’s economies of the future.”

Other members of the delegation conducting business meetings with local company executives in Seoul today include nLIGHT, a supplier of high-power semiconductor-based lasers for microelectronics material processing, defense and medical applications with operations in Vancouver, and Enprecis, a Seattle-based company providing online market research for automakers worldwide.

Gregoire is visiting South Korea at the request of President Lee Myung-bak, who personally invited the governor when he visited Washington state last fall. Gregoire is one of the first governors to visit the country since the signing of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement.

Tomorrow marks the final day of the trade mission. Gregoire and her delegates will continue meeting with business leaders, promoting Washington state abroad to create jobs at home.

Visit Gregoire’s online travel journal that includes travel notes from the governor and the rest of the delegation, the itinerary and photos of the trade mission. Access the travel journal by following the link on her homepage: www.governor.wa.gov.

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