From Seoul to Melbourne, burgeoning economies in the Asia Pacific have attracted interest across the US and vice versa. During a 10-day Pacific Rim visit late last year, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and 13 other state officials sought to strengthen economic ties between their state and Asia — promoting investments in, and goods from Virginia. The delegation participated in nearly 60 meetings with business leaders and government officials, which yielded tangible results.
According to Governor McAuliffe, trade missions such as this one are crucial for building a new Virginia economy, because 90% of consumers of the Commonwealth’s goods live outside of the US. In addition to building new business relationships, McAuliffe reinforced his ties with some of Virginia’s largest Asian investors, such as Kim Seung-youn, Chairman of Hanwha Group. The group has more than $65 million invested in the Old Dominion, and its thermoplastic composites plant in Lynchburg employs around 185 Virginians. Every year, the state hosts more than 510,000 international visitors from Asia, and the delegation’s trip to Singapore aimed to establish a direct flight between Virginia (Dulles) and Singapore, serving travelers from greater Southeast Asia. Due to the robust presence of South Korean investments in Virginia, and Singapore’s image as a hub of Southeast Asia, Governor McAuliffe has launched trade and marketing offices in the two countries to foster local economic ties.
Of the four countries visited, Japan has the strongest economic presence in Virginia, where around 17,300 jobs were supported by majority Japanese-owned companies in 2013. In order to strengthen this relationship, Governor McAuliffe, during his mission to Japan, spoke with numerous technology industry executives to attract more investments. In Australia, the governments of Victoria and Virginia signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on cybersecurity enhancement and information sharing to promote entrepreneurships and R&D innovation.
Recent months have seen several governor-led trade missions to the Asia Pacific. Iowa Governor and future ambassador to China Terry Branstad recently returned from a mission to China and Japan in which he discussed American beef imports, a potential $2.3 billion market. Additionally, a delegation led by Idaho Governor Otter visited China in October to build and strengthen relationships with existing and potential customers of Idahoan manufactured and agricultural products.
Chien-Chou (Antonio) Liao is a research intern at East-West Center in Washington and recent graduate of American University.