This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 24, 2011 - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced this morning that his administration's Department of Economic Development and Chinese trade officials have agreed "to work together over the next three years to sell $4.4 billion of Missouri goods and products to Chinese consumers."
The deal marks an increase of about a third over the state's current sales to China of just under $1 billion a year.
Nixon told reporters in a conference call from China this morning that the deal "includes a specific emphasis on agriculture exports to Chinese consumers." Representatives from a number of Missouri agriculture groups and businesses are part of the 60-person delegation that is accompanying the governor.
"It's very clear to us that there is a high demand for things grown and produced in Missouri,'' Nixon said. "We want to continue to feed the world."
However, a breakdown released later indicates that three-fourths of the agreed-on exports -- $3.2 billion -- would be manufactured products. The remaining $1.2 billion would be agricultural products, a Nixon spokesman said.
In his prepared remarks, the governor observed, "From Day One, my administration has focused on creating jobs in Missouri, and increasing our exports to countries overseas is an important strategy for achieving that critical goal. China is already Missouri's third-largest export market, and this agreement is another important step toward growing the state's economy. We will continue to focus on making Missouri more competitive in the global economy of the 21st Century."
In response to questions, Nixon indicated that he had heard no comments of concern from the Chinese about the General Assembly's failure to pass tax incentives aimed at encouraging infrastructure development around Lambert-St. Louis International Airport as part of the region's effort to persuade the Chinese to locate a cargo hub at the airport.
"I didn't sense that these sorts of things are a limiting concern,'' the governor said. Nixon said the talks so far had focused on the broader trade issues which resulted in the $4.4 billion export agreement.
The governor said he expected to meet with China's airline officials later this week, and indicated that the China Hub effort might be discussed at that time.
The Chinese did cancel this week's cargo flight to Lambert, about a month after the once-a-week flights had commenced.
Nixon did not seem concerned about the cancellation, saying it was "no different than the first barge that went each way'' on major Missouri rivers. The governor cited "logistical challenges'' that were not unexpected.
A Lambert spokesman said late Friday that airport officials had no indication that flights would not resume next week. This week's cancellation might reflect the United States' "soft market for China's good right now."
So far, the flights have carried fewer Missouri products back to China, compared to the cargo from China flown in. The Lambert spokesman said that wasn't unusual; the first flight back to China had contained industrial equipment produced here, he said.
In the conference call, Nixon said that any trade talks -- on both sides -- include "concern internationally about nuance and tone."
The governor and the Missouri trade delegation are to remain in China through this week. Nixon reported meeting with a number of Chinese officials, and said he expected to meet today (Tuesday, China time) with U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke.
When asked about his impressions so far, Nixon -- who is in Beijing, China's capital -- zeroed in the infrastructure development related to the 2008 Summer Olympics held in China.
"It's clear in Beijing that the Olympics were a step forward for them,'' he said, observing that the new stadium, broader highways and other related construction had "changed the face of Beijing."