The first three days in China have proven to be productive and successful for the LePage Administration. After arriving in Hong Kong late Sunday, the Maine Delegation, led by Governor Paul LePage, met with various officials and business leaders.
The mission is a coordinated effort by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), Maine International Trade Center (MITC), and the U.S. Department of Commerce.
"We are here to tap into this country's growth and opportunity and make those face to face connections," said Governor LePage, the first Maine Governor to lead a trade mission to Mainland China.
Thirteen Maine businesses and organizations are taking part in the mission which is providing them with the opportunity to expand their markets to China and explore business relationships with commercial partners in high growth cities such as Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Huangzhou. Participants are given the opportunity to conduct business-to-business matchmaking meetings. In addition, the mission is promoting the State of Maine, and its cities/counties as an ideal location for trade and investment as well as strengthening the state's economic ties with China.
"Our first day in Hong Kong was very busy with five productive meetings. To our surprise, these companies were already familiar with our products and most were interested in exploring a mutual business relationship," said Tom Yale, President of the Saco-based company, Yale Cordage. Hong Kong is a growing gateway for Maine companies. In 2011, approximately $15 million of Maine products were sold there.
As Maine's third largest foreign market, Maine exported $275 million worth of Maine products last year. "As the world's second largest economy, China offers huge potential for Maine and Maine businesses," said DECD Commissioner George Gervais, who is a member of the Maine Delegation.
The China Trade Mission has focused on Maine's natural resources and bringing attention to Maine's educational institutions and their foreign student attraction programs. The Governor discussed the appeal of pursuing an education in Maine, highlighting Maine's quality universities and academies, as well as Maine's beauty and safety. The University of Maine at Farmington and Thornton Academy had one-on-one meetings, as well as a group meeting with Governor LePage, at a reputable Hong Kong University interested in developing relationships with Maine. (See photo: Hong Kong-1) "I could not have had the quality meetings I had with schools and potential international students without the connections I made through the Maine International Trade Center," said University of Maine at Farmington representative, Jamie Marcus. Staff from the University of Maine-Orono and Husson University will be joining the mission for an education and investment event scheduled in Shanghai later this week.
Meanwhile, Monday night was "all about lobster" when the Maine Lobster Council featured a Maine lobster tasting event. Governor LePage spoke (See photo: Hong Kong-2) to an audience of seafood importers, distributors and hotel/restaurant buyers from Hong Kong who came and tasted Maine's quality products. Maine lobster is getting more and more popular in Asia, where exports have exploded from just over $100,000 annually in 2010 to nearly $1.5 million last year. Ready Seafood, of Portland, supplied the lobster for the event, and Atlantic Kingdom Seafood has been taking advantage of matchmaking meetings in mainland China and Hong Kong. The Governor toured (See photo: Hong Kong-3) a "City Super" food market in Kowloon, where he saw Cozy Harbor Seafood and Jasper Wyman's blueberries on display. Tuesday night the Governor spoke about Maine's seafood products at the Asian Seafood Exhibition in Hong Kong. Coordinated by Portland-based Diversified Communications, the Asian Seafood Exhibition is one of Asia's largest seafood shows.
On Wednesday the Maine Delegation departs Hong Kong for Shanghai, the second leg of the Trade Mission, where the focus shifts to medical products and biotech sectors.