11-2-12 St. Louis Business Journal
by Brian Hook
Preparations are underway for a trade mission from St. Louis to China designed to help businesses and universities tap into one of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies.
Representatives from throughout the region will meet with government and business leaders in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Nanjing, St. Louis’ Sister City, in early December. The mission will help expand Missouri’s established economic ties with China, according to the World Trade Center St. Louis, the group organizing the trip.
China is the third largest export market for Missouri, totaling $1.2 billion last year in trade, an increase of 17.5 percent compared to the total worth of exports from the state during 2010, according to the latest data from the World Institute for Strategic Economic Research. China is also one of the top destinations for exports from St. Louis, according to research from the U.S. International Trade Administration. Exports to China totaled $1.9 billion or 15.8 percent of all the exports from the St. Louis region throughout last year.
Former Sen. Kit Bond, chairman and partner at Kit Bond Strategies LLP, will lead the St. Louis delegation on the China trade mission. Since the late 1970s, first as governor of Missouri and then as a U.S. senator, Bond has led and hosted dozens of delegations to and from China.
When I was a senator, I had access to all of the top leadership,” Bond said. “Many of these people, particularly in Asia, have become good friends.”
It is this experience that will help open doors for St. Louis businesses and universities, Bond said, adding his extensive contacts with leaders across China will ensure that the St. Louis delegation will have access to the highest levels in government and to top-level decision-makers.
The trip by the St. Louis regional delegation to China will be the second trade mission partnership between the World Trade Center St. Louis and Kit Bond Strategies held this year.
In January, the pair led a 22-member delegation from St. Louis to Indonesia. The mission included leaders from eight companies in the region, including Emerson Electric Co., Boeing Co., and Novus International Inc. Representatives from the University of Missouri, Washington University in St. Louis, along with Webster University also attended.
While in Indonesia, the World Trade Center signed a memorandum of understanding with representatives from the American Chamber of Commerce and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce U.S. Bilateral Committee to help develop new trade and investment opportunities.
Joel Glassman, associate provost for academic affairs at the University of Missouri – St. Louis, joined the Indonesia delegation. He oversees the international programs at the university.
“We were able to make new connections and build on old existing connections,” he said, adding it’s too early to measure the results of the trip to Indonesia.
The World Trade Center has also played a major role in the so-called St. Louis China Hub initiative, which hit turbulence after an effort to land hundreds of millions of dollars in state tax incentives failed to pass the Missouri General Assembly last year. The plan to turn the region into a freight cargo hub, however, received a small boost earlier this year after receiving a $3 million state grant.
More trade delegations from around the globe may soon be stopping in St. Louis.
The World Trade Center St. Louis has been named the designated “Making Global Local” partner organization for the region by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, according to organizers.
The USTDA, an independent foreign assistance agency funded by the U.S. Congress, started this program in May to build partnerships with trade organizations spread across the country.
Less than 20 organizations have received the designation by the federal agency.
The Missouri International Trade & Investment Office, overseen by the state’s economic development department in Jefferson City, has also been designated as a partner organization.
There is not a local partner organization for the USTDA program yet in Illinois.