China trip leaves Brewer optimistic about interest in Arizona - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

China trip leaves Brewer optimistic about interest in Arizona

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Posted: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 10:19 pm | Updated: 11:43 am, Mon Oct 3, 2011.

Gov. Jan Brewer said Wednesday it appears that her trade mission to China will pay dividends for Arizona.

"I am very, very encouraged that it's going to be very beneficial,'' the governor said in a conference call from Beijing with reporters. And she called the interest in Arizona "overwhelming.''

Brewer had no specific announcements of Chinese companies ready to set up shop in Arizona. And she said she could not share the names of many of the firms because of confidentiality requests.

But Brewer said the trip gave her, members of the Arizona Commerce Authority and other business leaders traveling with her a list of contacts she promised to pursue after she returns to the state on Saturday. And she said some of those with whom she met told her they plan to follow up with their own visits to Arizona.

The governor said most of the contacts she made were with solar energy companies. And she said the Chinese executives were particularly interested in what companies already were doing business here.

She specifically mentioned Suntech and First Solar, both of which manufacture photo voltaic cells and film in Arizona.

"We get a lot of interest in the supply chain,'' she said.

One of the biggest surprises, Brewer said, was that the Chinese business executives knew so much -- and not only about Arizona.

"They had done their research on me,'' Brewer said, right down to the financial condition Arizona was in when she became governor in early 2009.

"They understood what my plan was and that I was trying to be very encouraging to bring jobs and that I wanted to work with business,'' the governor said. Brewer said the Chinese business officials were particularly interested in the state's "competitive package,'' various tax breaks and other incentives available to firms that locate or expand in Arizona.

On the other side of the equation, Brewer said she learned it's very important to understand the culture of China if the state hopes to create new business opportunities.

"They build foundations based on relationships,'' she said, along with trust and integrity.

Beyond the business contacts, Brewer said nothing about travel in China, a communist country with limited freedoms, caused her any concern.

"Everybody has been very friendly and encouraging and welcoming,'' she said. "We have had a fantastic reception, from Point One all the way through.''

And Brewer said she has no reason to believe that the Chinese government specifically limited with whom she was allowed to converse.

China is Arizona's third largest export partner, with the state shipping $1.03 billion in goods to that country last year according to the U.S.-China Business Council.

More than half of that is in computers and electronics, with $123 million in minerals and ore, $111 million in agricultural products and $73 million in all types of machinery except electrical.

Brewer's trip comes as the Alliance for American Manufacturing released a report saying 2.8 million jobs have been lost in this country, including 50,000 in Arizona, since China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001.

The report done for the alliance by the Economic Policy Institute blames the job losses largely on illegal currency manipulation by China. The argument is that the yuan does not fluctuate freely against the dollar but is artificially set to boost Chinese exports.

But gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said the report only underscores the need for Arizona to do more to encourage exports to China.

"With this trade mission and similar efforts, Gov. Brewer is optimistic that this relationship will grow, resulting in jobs for Arizonans, good jobs,'' he said. "Ultimately, that's what this is all about.''

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