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Governor Beebe's Weekly Column and Radio Address: Global Economic Opportunity


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Expanding our state's economy requires us to seek new markets for products made and sold by Arkansas companies. We can strengthen our businesses at home by exporting Arkansas goods and services to countries with rapidly growing economies. With this in mind, I delivered the keynote address at the first Arkansas-China Business and Economic Summit, recently held at the University of Central Arkansas.

The summit brought together state business leaders and Chinese officials, all interested in increasing and improving the economic relationship between our countries. The meetings gave Arkansas businesses, large and small, new insight into the Chinese business climate and business culture. Our executives and entrepreneurs can use this information to increase Arkansas's share of Chinese markets.

Arkansas's exports to China have grown steadily over the past decade, surpassing $336 million in 2010, an all-time high. Agricultural commodities, such as poultry, cotton and rice, remain our top exports. But Arkansas companies are finding increasing success selling aerospace components, electrical machinery, chemicals and plastics to Chinese companies. Arkansas's share of the $91 billion U.S. export market to China is small, but is expanding quickly, and Arkansas-based companies see huge growth potential in China.

Trade is not our state's only area of interest in China. Arkansas-based companies have been making major investments in China for a decade. Walmart operates more than 330 stores in 100 Chinese cities, and Acxiom, the Little Rock-based IT and marketing company, has a significant presence in China. These kinds of investments strengthen Arkansas companies and create jobs here at home.

The rapid growth of the Chinese economy creates a number of concerns for many Americans. Lower Chinese labor costs have caused American companies to close American plants and move production across the Pacific. Low-cost Chinese goods have contributed to trade imbalances and hurt domestic industries, such as steel and timber. Many question the Chinese record on human rights. For these reasons, some believe that America should turn its back on China and treat them with indifference. That attitude is both unrealistic and counterproductive.

The truth is that we live in an interconnected world and are part of a global economy. Clear lines of communication between Arkansas and China are important to our economic future. More than 1.3 billion consumers live in China, and its huge emerging middle class provides a market that is too big for Arkansas to ignore. We need to increase our exports to China, encourage the expansion of Arkansas companies operating in China and welcome Chinese investment into our State.

While we negotiate the terms of this relationship to the mutual advantage of Arkansans and the Chinese, that dialogue will be open, honest and tough. This is an opportunity that we can take advantage of to help further expand our economy and make Arkansas a stronger presence in world markets for years to come.

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