Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gov. Bredesen leads second mission to China

As Gov. Phil Bredesen leads about 30 private industry leaders to China next week on his second trade mission to that country, what's not on the agenda is the thorny tire-for-chickens dispute between the two countries.
Last month, the Obama administration slapped a tariff on Chinese tire imports, which was met with the retaliatory threat of a tariff on American chickens and automobile parts, all of which involve some Tennessee business interests.

Instead, the focus of the governor's trade mission is continuing to develop relationships with business and political leaders started during Bredesen's initial China trip two years ago and by the opening of a Tennessee trade office in Beijing that year.

"The first trip in 2007 was introductory," said Matt Kisber, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, who also will be making the 10-day trip starting Tuesday. "There was a lot of ceremony, which is part of the Chinese culture. This will be a real working trip."

John Scannapieco, an attorney for Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, who also went on the trade mission in 2007, said he managed to nab a Chinese wire-manufacturing client named Fushi out of the last trip. It bought the Copperweld plant in Fayetteville a few years ago and continues to manufacture there.

"People complain about China taking jobs," Scannapieco said. "We actually think if you can attract investment here, you can save a lot of jobs as well."

China is the third-largest export market for Tennessee, after Canada and Mexico. Tennessee sold $1.36 billion in exports last year to China, mostly chemical, agricultural and scrap products.

This time, state leaders will focus on selling Tennessee's health-care, green-energy and transportation and logistics businesses, with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and FedEx representatives joining the expedition.

Also on board will be several more leaders from the health-care sector, including Caroline Young of the Nashville Health Care Council and Healthways Chairman Thomas Cigarran.

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