China bound

On September 27, 2009, in China, by Mark Norris

I am honored to chair the delegation which departs for China today. The Southern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments, comprised of 16 southern states, recruited me as Tennessee Senate Majority Leader, together with the speakers of the Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri houses, the President Pro Tempore of the Virginia Senate and majority leader of the Arkansas house, to represent the Southern states on this trade and cultural mission to China. It is not undertaken at taxpayer expense.

Developing trade with China is important to our financial well being in Tennessee and surrounding states. China is Tennessee’s third largest trading partner, following Canada and Mexico. Last year, Chinese customers purchased more than $1.3 billion dollars in Tennessee goods and services with chemicals and agricultural products leading exports. Among the fifty U.S. states, Tennessee ranks 13th in the value of goods and services exported to China.

Upon arrival in Beijing, we will meet with diplomats at the United States Embassy. Meetings are also scheduled with Chinese Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Commerce. We will tour institutions of urban planning and international studies.

It is an important opportunity to develop and expand the kind of trade with China that creates more jobs in, and exports from, Tennessee and the southern states. Equalizing the balance of trade is one of the goals of the G20 announced in Pittsburgh last week, and we need to find ways as legislators to foster the relationships which further that goal without the kind of protectionist measures recently advocated by some.

I have many constituents whose employers have operations in my West Tennessee district as well as China. Companies like Buckman, Federal Express, International Paper and Medtronic consider expanding markets in China essential to their growth here at home. I will be meeting with several of these companies in Beijing and Shanghai. It is important to appreciate and understand their experience in China and what we, as legislators, can do to strengthen it.

A second delegation organized by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development will also visit China later next month. We will share our knowledge with them in hopes of maximizing the opportunity for everyone’s benefit.

Comments are closed.