A number of prominent Chinese banking officials, as well as Zhang Qiyue, China’s Consul General in New York, recently attended the Maine International Trade Center’s (MITC) annual conference, providing a positive outlook for future trade and investment between China and the New England state. In a speech to some of Maine’s top exporters, Zhang stated that the expansion of China’s middle class will bring new opportunities for the state’s products.
China is already the second-largest buyer of Maine exports, having purchased $184 million worth of merchandise in 2014. Agriculture and seafood have driven the growth of this trade relationship, with lobster exports alone mushrooming from $0 in 2007 to $21.4 million in 2014. The growing popularity in China of wild blueberries, of which Maine is America’s top producer, has also aided the state’s agricultural sector.
Agriculture has remained a vital component of Maine’s trade relationship with China, but other sectors, particularly food processing and advanced textiles, are emerging as potential areas of expansion for export and investment. Companies operating in the field of life sciences have also pursued Chinese partners in the past year, with Maine’s Jackson Laboratory signing an MOU last October with a Wuhan-based bioinformatics company for a joint research facility in Hubei Province.
While products from these sectors are less well known in Asia than Maine’s seafood products, the MITC has been working to encourage trade and investment in nonagricultural sectors in a number of ways. In January, the Center opened a new office in Shanghai to educate potential investors on the different areas of Maine’s economy. In addition to attracting Chinese investment in Maine, the Shanghai office has been tasked with bringing more tourists to the state, which is expected to receive an influx of visitors from China in coming years.
As part of a trade mission organized by the MITC and the US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, Maine Governor Paul LePage will head a group of businesses and educational organizations to Shanghai and Tokyo this October in order to advertise his state’s famous lobster and encourage further investment in Maine.
Patrick Madaj is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an undergraduate student at the University of Oklahoma.