Gov. Chris Gregoire today announced she will be leading a trade mission to India and Korea joined by nearly 50 business, education and government leaders working to expand exports and investment in our state's agriculture, life sciences and technology sectors.
"I will be the first governor to lead a trade mission to India, where the opportunities are significant," Gregoire said. "As India's economy thrives, we know that consumers there are seeking more imported products from the United States. This is our opportunity to get out in front, and make sure that consumers and businesses in India are aware of the quality items produced in Washington state. I'm confident our efforts will lead to business expansions and new jobs for Washingtonians."
In 2011, India was Washington state's 24th largest export market for goods, though 2012 shows potential for strong growth. For the first six months of this year, exports have grown to nearly $350 million, up more than 26 percent from June 2011.
"Even in the sluggish economy, businesses that export continue to find many opportunities for growth and expansion in global markets," said Commerce Director Rogers Weed. "Korea is already Washington's fourth largest export market, and India has had strong economic performance in recent years and expects some 400 million people to enter the middle class in the next 15 to 20 years. That's a tremendous new community of potential partners and consumers for Washington companies."
Gregoire is visiting Korea at the request of Korea's president, who made a personal invitation during a visit to Washington state last fall. Gregoire will be one of the first U.S. governors to lead a trade mission to Korea since the signing of the U.S-Korea Free Trade Agreement in March.
Gregoire will leave the state on Sunday, Sept. 30th, arriving in Hyderabad, India on Tuesday, Oct. 2nd where she will kick off the 10-day trade mission, followed by stops in Delhi and Mumbai. While in India, Gregoire will establish an official relationship with the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, an area rich in high-tech opportunities with a large Microsoft presence. Gregoire will also conduct meetings focused on our state's life sciences sector, and help open a new corneal transplant processing center operated in partnership with SightLife, a Seattle-based global health organization and the world's leading eye bank.
"Washington is an international hub for life sciences innovation, and Asia offers prime opportunities related to investment, partnering and research collaboration in the biotech and biomedical industry," said Chris Rivera, president of the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association. "We are very pleased to accompany the Governor on this historic trade mission to India and Korea where we will sign agreements to further relationships for our companies and research organizations in these two significant international global healthcare markets."
Additionally, Gregoire will conduct meetings with Indian government officials to discuss the high tariffs placed on Washington agricultural products in an effort to get them reduced and help expand our agricultural markets. Washington's apple industry views India as one of the most promising growth markets, with annual Washington apple sales already reaching $60 million. India also imports wine, pears, peaches and lentils from Washington state.
"As the new food frontier, India offers promise for Washington potato growers," said Matt Harris of the Washington Potato Commission. "Unfortunately, a confusing matrix of import tariffs and arbitrary duties on US frozen french fries prohibits trade opportunities. We're hopeful that discussions with the Indian government can clarify how to navigate the processes needed to reach the Indian consumer. If we're ever going to crack the India market in a big way, we need transparency and a level playing field."
While in Korea, Gregoire will visit a Costco to promote Washington foods and a Popeye's restaurant where she'll serve Washington-grown french fries to customers. Passage of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement resulted in the immediate elimination of the 18 percent tariff on U.S. frozen potatoes. In 2011, more than $36 million in frozen potato products were exported through Washington state ports to Korea.
Gregoire and the delegation will also meet with KoreaBio to encourage business partnerships and investment in Washington, highlighted by the anticipated signing of a life sciences industry memorandum of intent. Additionally, the governor will conduct meetings with Korean business leaders, showcasing innovative Washington companies in the dynamic fields of high-power lasers, energy and automotive technology.
Visit Gregoire's online travel journal that includes travel notes from the governor and the rest of the delegation, the itinerary and photos of the trade mission. Access the travel journal by following the link on her homepage: www.governor.wa.gov.