In April, Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia officially opened an agricultural trade representative office in Shanghai dedicated to increasing agricultural and forestry exports from Virginia to mainland China. The office is meant to increase dialogue between Virginia exporters and importers in China. This comes as part of the Governor’s initiative to increase the state’s agricultural and forestry exports to destinations worldwide, an initiative in which China has played a major role as it is Virginia’s largest agricultural export consumer. At the office opening, Governor McDonnell said, “Fifteen years ago, Virginia's agricultural exports to China were negligible. Today, business is booming. China purchased almost $640 million in agricultural goods last year from the Commonwealth, more than doubling the amount from 2011. I've seen firsthand during my two trade missions to China that the country holds huge growth potential for future export business from Virginia. We intend to capitalize fully on those opportunities. More exports to China equals more good jobs in Virginia."
The Governor added that Virginia exported a total of $2.6 billion in goods to China last year and emphasized the importance of strong exports for rural communities. One of his top economic priorities has been increasing export sales, which benefit Virginia farms, processing facilities, transportation and ports. As part of this effort, he also plans to open an agricultural trade office in India. Though the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has had a trade office in Hong Kong for over twenty years, the Shanghai office is Virginia’s first in mainland China.
Source: data from The Trade Partnership, Washington DC
Virginia’s quickly growing agricultural and forestry exports to China are reflective of its robust trade with Asia, as well as the region’s growing importance as a market for US exports. Merchandise exports to Asia contributed $5 billion to Virginia’s economy last year, and services exports to Asia totaled $3.7 billion in 2011, supporting nearly 30,000 jobs. Virginia’s exports to Asia have grown by 28% since 2006.
North Carolina is the only other state with an agricultural trade representative office in China, located in Beijing. Between 2008 and 2010, North Carolina’s agricultural exports to China doubled, increasing from $271 million to $542 million despite the global financial crisis. Exports to Asia also benefit North Carolina considerably—goods exports to Asia contributed $8.4 billion to North Carolina’s economy last year and services exports added $3.5 billion in 2011, supporting almost 54,000 jobs.
North Carolina and Virginia are also both well-positioned to become market leaders in China given the expansion of the Panama Canal which will shorten shipping routes in early 2015.
Sources: Commerce.Virginia.gov, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.