Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
October 7, 2004
Good afternoon. It’s great to be here. I always enjoy coming back to this beautiful campus.
I am sorry President Cronin was unable to join us today. He has done an outstanding job of leading Whitman College for more than a decade. He will officially retire at the end of this academic year. But his legacy of leadership will continue far into the future. Whitman has a national reputation as one of the best Liberal Arts colleges in America with an incredible caliber of student body and a great diversity of backgrounds. For that we are all grateful. I wish President Cronin the best in retirement.
And I can relate to that sense of imminent retirement! As the end of my second term nears, I am trying to make the most of the time left. That’s why we went on our trade mission to China and Vietnam last month. Today I’d like to share some of the successes of this mission, and discuss international trade’s importance to Washington state.
I know that Whitman has a highly successful “Whitman in China” program for alumni. Since 1982, more than 100 Whitman alumni have participated. And I understand that some of you here today may be interested in that program. It’s the best way to expose the people of China to American ideals, freedom and democracy.
That’s why trade is also so important. It’s more than just jobs and dollars, it’s exporting the American way of life – our values – to other countries.
Trade is critical to Washington state. We are very committed to being a leader in global trade because it provides jobs and dollars for our economy.
Trade totaled more than $97 billion last year overall for our state. Washington is the fourth largest exporting state in the U.S. On a per capita basis, we actually have the largest export volume in the country.
And China is our third largest export market today. We exported more than $2.3 billion in products to China last year, and $3.5 billion in 2002.
As a result of our trade mission to China in 2003, Washington trade mission delegates reported more than $2.5 million in actual sales. And projected sales of more than $40 million. Even with such great results, we know that our trade relationship and our educational and cultural exchanges are only beginning to reach their potential.
That’s why I felt it was important to return to China last month on my final trade mission as governor. We went on the mission to develop more new opportunities for Washington farms and businesses – to sell their “made in Washington” products and services. China has immense needs and Washington companies and farmers can help meet those needs. It’s a win-win.
And we also wanted to further develop our relationship with Vietnam through our meetings and exchanges. Vietnam was our state’s 13th largest export market last year. We exported more to Vietnam than any other state in the U.S. last year. Even when we subtract out Boeing – we’re still the top U.S. exporter to Vietnam.
We were very successful on this mission to China and Vietnam. When we returned a few weeks ago, our business delegates reported actual sales of $1.4 million, and approximately $41.4 million in projected new sales during the next 12 months—all as a result of our mission.
China has enormous needs that Washington state companies and institutions can meet. There is a great potential for paper/wood products, food and agriculture, electronics, industrial machinery, and medical equipment and environmental technology.
Our progress in China during the mission included:
· Signing a higher education agreement between Pierce College and the Beijing Foreign Studies University for a faculty exchange program
· Meeting with President Jintao Hu—a rare and valuable exception to standard political protocol
· Meetings with officials in Guangdong province, the economic engine of China, to discuss trade opportunities
We also had a productive visit to Vietnam. Vietnam is hungry for U.S. products, machinery, medicine, business management expertise and American education. They want to train their people in U.S. business practices.
This was my first trade mission to Vietnam. The few days there really helped us to learn more about this beautiful country, its people, its culture, and its business environment. We met with the Prime Minister Phan Van Khai of Vietnam, top government officials and business leaders.
In Hanoi, we helped celebrate the arrival of a Boeing 777 with Vietnam Airlines. This is Vietnam Airlines’ fourth direct purchase of a 777.
In Ho Chi Minh City, we visited the Metro market, the equivalent of a Costco, and promoted Washington apples. Vietnam is one of the fastest growing and highest value markets for Washington apples. Washington apples account for more than 90 percent of all U.S. apple exports. And more than 50 percent of U.S. apples are produced in our state.
As I arrived at the Metro, I saw people leaving with apples in their bags. Through the plastic bags, I could see the Washington apple logo.
We also noticed that in the freezer food section, there were French fries that are processed in Washington state with our potatoes.
The potato industry is very important to our state and our farmers. We are the top U.S. producer of French fries. We pride ourselves on growing very high-quality potatoes for such premium products.
Export sales are a vital part of this industry. And Vietnam is an increasingly important export market for French fries. In 1995, there were no U.S. French fries entering the country. But last year, Vietnam imported almost 200 metric tons ($145,000). The majority of today’s shipments are made in Washington state processing plants and shipped through Washington state ports.
We’ve seen that to build strong trade partnerships, there is no substitute for in-person visits and meetings with our partners, face-to-face. The members of our delegation—including the business representatives—commented again and again on how being there in China and in Vietnam was a powerful business development tool. The benefits of our trade partnerships are a direct result of the investments we’ve been willing to make. Investments of time and effort and genuine interest in other countries.
Healthy trade requires focus on relationships, not just transactions. That’s what makes educational exchanges like the Whitman in China program so important. Participants in these programs gain a rich educational and personal experience. And the exchanges bring our state and its trade partners closer together on a cultural level.
We never stopped working in China or in Vietnam, from pre-dawn to after-dark. The days and evenings were very full. We didn’t want to miss any opportunities.
I have to laugh when I read off-hand comments in the media questioning whether we really need to be taking such trips. As if the missions are frivolous junkets, wonderful holidays filled with sightseeing and carefree relaxation.
Don’t get me wrong—I find our missions profoundly illuminating and gratifying. And I love visiting China and the rest of Asia. But our trade missions are hard work, with long hours, high stress, and a sense that a lot rides on every conversation and every meeting. Because it does.
Jobs here in Washington depend on nurturing our overseas friendships. Our trade missions yield results, including the millions in sales I mentioned earlier. These missions benefit Washington businesses, farmers, students and all citizens. We’re making the “Made in Washington” label a symbol known and trusted around the world.
Looking ahead, I see a bright future for our state in international trade. We have many factors in our favor right now. We should continue to actively pursue lucrative markets beyond our national borders. We should continue to invest in our friendships with other countries.
Working together, we can continue and strengthen our state’s leadership in international trade. The economic and cultural benefits we can achieve will continue to make Washington a great place to live, work and raise a family.