Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday announced plans to make his third international business development trip, this time to China and Japan on Nov. 15-24.
Hutchinson and Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston will make several stops in both countries to recruit new prospects to the state and meet with companies that already have operations in Arkansas.
They will spend three days in Japan and five days in China. Hutchinson's wife Susan will accompany him on the trip. The governor said AEDC and the AEDC Foundation will pay for the trip.
"In order to demonstrate Arkansas’ interest in Japanese and Chinese companies considering investing in the United States, it is important we meet face to face with leaders of these companies," Hutchinson said. "Through this trip, we will build new relationships while ensuring those companies headquartered in Asia that already do business in the state have what they need to stay and grow in Arkansas."
Hutchinson has made business development trips to Europe and Cuba since becoming governor. He was the first governor to visit Cuba since the country re-established formal diplomatic relations with the United States.
Hutchinson said he didn't expect any immediate economic development announcements after his Asia trip. After returning from Europe last summer, where he attended the Paris Air Show, Aerojet Rocketdyne announced plans to add 85 jobs and expand its plans in the Highland Industrial Park in East Camden. Hutchinson discussed final details of the expansion with Aerojet officials in Paris.
But Hutchinson said he expects Arkansas' position as a major aerospace industry exporter to be an area of focus, particularly in China. And he said he hoped to exploit Arkansas' connections to the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville, which has a growing presence in China. He said Arkansas hasn't used its ties to Wal-Mart to its full advantage.
"People know Wal-Mart, but they don't always know that Sam Walton from northwest Arkansas founded the company, I knew him, he's an Arkansas gem, the international home of Wal-Mart is in Arkansas, and to make that connection," Hutchinson said.
The governor noted one of Wal-Mart's major initiatives is to bring more manufacturing back to the United States, and Arkansas could benefit from that with Chinese firms.
"[A]t the same time [China] is recognizing the need to have some of their manufacturing move to the United States," Hutchinson said. "And so, if they want to market goods to Wal-Mart, the best means do to that is to have manufacturing facilities here in the United States — there's not a better place than Arkansas, both in terms of our skilled workforce, but also it's a good relationship with Wal-Mart."
In Japan, Hutchinson plans to meet with manufacturing companies and a food processing company. He's also scheduled to meet with Caroline Kennedy, the United States ambassador to Japan.
In China, the governor will meet with at least six companies considering expansion in the United States. The governor's office wouldn't name the companies for competitive reasons. Hutchinson will also meet with Max Baucus, the the United States ambassador to China.
The governor said six Asian countries were among Arkansas’ top 20 trading partners in 2014, accounting for 21 percent of all exports from Arkansas. And 18 of the 98 projects that signed incentive agreements with AEDC last year were by foreign-owned corporations that plan to create more than 567 new jobs in Arkansas.
Since 1985, AEDC has had an office in Japan promoting foreign direct investment in Japan, the Republic of South Korea, India and countries in Southeast Asia. There are 16 Japanese companies with 19 locations in Arkansas employing about 5,300 workers, the governor's office said.
AEDC established an office in China in 2008. There are four Chinese companies and one Taiwanese company with presences in Arkansas, according to the governor's office.
Governor's Tentative Schedule
November 17 (Tuesday) Tokyo, Japan
- Meet with two manufacturing companies
- Meet with food processing company
- Interview with local media
November 18 (Wednesday) Tokyo/Nagoya, Japan
- Meeting with Ambassador Caroline Kennedy
- Gov. Hutchinson speaks at luncheon organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s Chubu Chapter
- Meetings with two manufacturing companies
November 19 (Thursday): Depart Tokyo/Arrive in Qingdao/Jinan, China
- Meet with prospective company
- Travel to Jinan
November 20 (Friday): Jinan/Jining, Shandong province
- Meet with the governor of Shandong Province
- Lunch hosted by Jining government
- Visit with two prospective companies
November 21 (Saturday) Jining/Guangzhou/Guangdong Province
November 22 (Sunday) Guanghzou/Zhengzhou
- Morning: Chinese Provinces-U.S. States Economic & Trade Conference, B2B Meeting
- Luncheon with top Chinese leaders in business and government
- Afternoon: Travel
November 23 (Monday): Zhengzhou/ Beijing
- Visit three prospective companies
- Meeting with the governor of Henan Province
November 24 (Tuesday): Beijing/ Little Rock
- Meet with Jiang Zengwei, chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT)
- Meet with Chairman Ding Xuedong of China Investment Corp.
- Lunch hosted by Mr. Xie Yuan, vice president of CPAFFC
- Meet with Ambassador Max Baucus, US Embassy, Beijing