WisBusiness: China Trade Mission Looking to Increase Wisconsin Exports

Gov. Jim Doyle leaves on an 11-day trade trip to China today. He’ll be joined by a delegation of public and private sector representatives. Doyle today told WisPolitics the purpose of the trip is to get Wisconsin’s products — especially agriculture and manufacturing offerings — known among the 100 million middle-class Chinese residents who live among the 1.3 billion total population in one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

“I want to make sure that we really are working and beginning the process of assuring that the markets for Wisconsin good are there,” Doyle said of the trip, which ends March 31. “We already are a tremendous exporter to China. It’s our third or fourth largest point of exportation — particularly agricultural and manufacturing (products). So we have a strong agricultural group going with us.

“We will be there talking and working to have people get to know us better, and hopefully work to find good markets for Wisconsin products.”

Doyle earlier told WisPolitics he wasn’t advocating the repeal of the North American Free Trade Agreement but rather stricter enforcement of those already in place. A backer of the virtual Democratic presidential nominee, Massachusetts U.S. Sen. John Kerry, Doyle knows states have no role in enforcing trade deals but he also is aware of what trade agreements can mean for individual states as he tours China.

“We really need a national administration that making sure there is a fair playing field,” Doyle said of current trade agreements. “I think we all recognize that we really need to work to stop this sort of free flow of manufacturing jobs to China right now.

“But at the same time, we’ve got to understand from Wisconsin’s interest, there are 100 million people in China right now who are middle class by our definition of middle class. That’s expected grow to as much as 500 million over the next 15 years. That means the opportunities to sell food, to sell other agricultural products and other manufacturing products is enormous.

“I really hope the federal government is going to do a lot better job of enforcing existing trade agreements and making sure we are competing on a level playing field.”

State information shows China accepted $122 million in Wisconsin agricultural exports last year. Total Wisconsin exports to China have jumped 250 percent since 1999. At the end of 2001, China became a member of the World Trade Organization.

Nationally, the state is 16th in exports to China.

Department of Commerce Secretary Cory Nettles said in an earlier statement the mission will “raise the visibility” of Wisconsin products, and there is no time like the present to go after the markets in this rapidly expanding country. Top Wisconsin ag products considered to have great potential for Chinese customers include dairy, beef, pork, cranberries, vegetables, feed grains, ag equipment and livestock genetics.