BY CHELYEN DAVIS
Gov. Bob McDonnell says he expects a marketing mission to Asia to produce several economic development announcements in the coming weeks.
McDonnell has spent the past week meeting with business leaders, CEOs and government officials in Japan and China, and is heading to South Korea today.
While in Asia this week he announced the opening of a Virginia economic development office in Shanghai, China.
"We're very excited about that; it will give us an opportunity for a Virginia presence," McDonnell said from Beijing in a conference call with reporters Friday.
In a written release earlier in the week announcing the Shanghai trade office, McDonnell said Virginia has lagged in developing trade relations with China.
"We must tap into the Chinese market if we want to be successful in today's global economy," McDonnell said. "Unfortunately, Virginia has failed to properly devote resources in recent years to market to China, putting us behind other states in competing for investment opportunities. That is no longer the case."
China has become Virginia's second-largest export destination, with the state sending $1.17 billion in exports there in 2009.
In the phone call, McDonnell said the trade trip has gone well so far, and that business leaders in China and Japan have been eager to talk about business opportunities in Virginia. He said he held three roundtable meetings with 50 different business prospects over the last few days. Many of those businesses deal with agricultural, manufacturing and electrical products, he said.
In talking to Chinese business owners, McDonnell said he has stressed Virginia's business-friendly climate, recent tax incentives approved by the legislature, and the potential of the state's ports.
"They're very anxious to work with Virginia, they like our pro-business policies, they like the fact we've got our business open here," McDonnell said. "I'm very encouraged. I'm pleasantly surprised at the willingness of China to open up to free markets and do business with us here in Virginia."
He also said Chinese companies are more open to moving manufacturing to Virginia, because it can be costly to ship China-made products to the U.S.
McDonnell said Chinese leaders appreciate "the fact that we're here looking people in the eye."
He expects to make announcements about some new trade agreements soon.
"I am very confident that we will have some very good announcements that we can make to the people of Virginia about the results of this trip," McDonnell said. "Virginia stands to benefit from its great location in the middle of the Atlantic [seaboard], its proximity to D.C. and frankly its great reputation."
Before going to China, McDonnell visited Japan, conducting the same types of meetings.
Japan has been one of the Top 10 in terms of countries to which Virginia exports, although some exports to that country have been in decline.
Still, McDonnell said more than 120 Japanese companies do business in Virginia--the state has had a trade office there since 1981--and he hopes to see similar success in other countries.
McDonnell's visit to South Korea today will be the last leg of his trip. In 2010, Virginia sent $379 million worth of exports to South Korea.
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028