State to open trade/investment office in China

Gov. Jerry Brown announced today he’s opening a new trade and investment office in China, aimed at increasing direct investment in California and giving the state’s businesses more advantages over there.

“The Pacific Rim has become the center of the world economy, presenting California with countless opportunities to grow alongside our neighbors across the ocean,” Brown said in a news release issued Friday, after he met with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Los Angeles. “The office will encourage direct investment and further strengthen the existing ties between the world’s second- and ninth-largest economies.”

The California-China Trade and Investment Office will give California more access to Chinese business contacts and provide Chinese investors with access to California projects that will benefit from increased investment. The office will be paid for by private-sector partners coordinated by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, which will also work with the Chinese government to get the office open.

California hasn’t had a formal presence in China since the previous foreign trade offices were closed in 2003.

The governor’s office notes China is the world’s largest exporter of goods and third largest importer, ranking closely behind the United States and the European Union. The vast majority of China’s exports to the U.S. go through California ports, while California exported $12.4 billion in goods and services to China in 2010. In addition, China invested $1.5 billion in California projects in 2011, or 10 percent of all Chinese investment in the U.S.

Vice President Xi visited California on the last stop of a four-day U.S. tour to discuss trade and investment opportunities with Brown and Vice President Joe Biden.

UPDATE @ 11:19 A.M.: State Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, said Brown should hold China’s feet to the fire.

“Today the Governor announced he is opening a trade and investment office in China. While I am the first to welcome free trade with other countries, it must really be free,” Harman said in a news release. “China’s unfair trade practices and manipulation of currency are hurting California’s economy. To me this is an issue of parity and fairness. Which means, both sides must play by the same rules. Clearly that is not the case with China.”

Harman also noted many California companies have intellectual property issues with China. According to one copyright industry association, China’s piracy rate remains one of the highest in the world (over 90 percent). On average, 20 percent of all consumer products in the Chinese market are counterfeit. By some estimates U.S. companies lose up to a billion dollars in legitimate business each year to piracy.

“Piracy of intellectual property particularly impacts the electronics industry and, as we know, that is an industry with many ties to California,” said Harman. “Piracy is about jobs and frankly, California can’t afford to be on the short end of that stick.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.