On Wednesday the Maine Delegation, led by Governor Paul LePage, departed Hong Kong and flew north to Shanghai to continue the second leg of what has been a very productive and informative week-long trade mission to China.
China is already Maine's third largest foreign market with $275 million worth of products exported last year. "China is the world's fastest growing economy, and for Maine companies looking to develop new exports, we have seen firsthand there is huge potential here," said Governor LePage.
More than a dozen Maine businesses and organizations are taking part in the mission that is providing valuable opportunities to meet with Chinese officials and business people to strengthen relations. 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. "Nearly every industry sector is seeking some sort of trade assistance related to China," explained MITC President Janine B. Cary.
These meetings enable Maine job creators to meet face to face with distributors and importers. "The meetings exceeded my expectations. I met with qualified sales prospects who were genuinely interested in my products," said Artel Corporation representative, Kevin Khovananth.
"This is all about expanding opportunity for Maine businesses in what has become a rapidly growing overseas market," said Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner George Gervais.
While the Maine Delegation was in Hong Kong, the primary focus was on exports of natural resource-based products such as seafood and wood products. In Shanghai the focus shifted to predominantly high technology industries such as biotech and medical products. Fairchild Semiconductors and IDEXX Laboratories sponsored well-attended State of Maine receptions and introduced their clients and contacts to Maine's growing innovative products and high technology sectors.
On Thursday Governor LePage met with officials from IDEXX Laboratories, a Westbrook based biotech with operations currently located in China. According to the Maine International Trade Center, there is high demand in China for water quality and animal testing devices, the bread and butter of what IDEXX develops and sells. "People are spending more money on the health and well-being of their companion animals which requires that veterinarians in China become better equipped to support their clients," said the Director for IDEXX Laboratories in Asia, Cleveland Ngan. "China is also proving to be a strong market for our other products, including water testing devices. There is real growth momentum for IDEXX in China and we are pleased that Maine is being proactive in its outreach to our neighbors in Asia," continued Ngan.
Developing educational opportunities is another goal of the delegation's visit. China has the largest education system in the world and participants from Thornton Academy and the University of Maine System are looking to establish new partnerships and recruit more students from China. Today Governor LePage and the education delegation will participate in an event at East China Normal University.
The Trade Mission to China concludes Saturday at which point the Delegation returns to Maine.