Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Gov. Brian Sandoval is leading a delegation of state and business leaders from Nevada to China and South Korea to promote Nevada’s business-friendly atmosphere and establish relationships with officials in the growing Asian markets.
On Wednesday, his office announced that Sandoval and the delegation met with members of the U.S. Embassy staff in Beijing and officials of the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China during the first leg of the trip.
Sandoval, a Republican, and the delegation left Saturday and return Wednesday.
“The timing couldn’t be better for a Nevada trade mission to Asia,” Sandoval said in a statement earlier this month.
He pointed to China’s “growing influence in our global economy” and the recent implementation of a trade agreement with Korea. They “provide our state with unique opportunities to advance our economic diversification and foreign direct investment,” he said.
Since then, however, China has become a much-debated issue in the presidential campaign. Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president, accused President Barack Obama of being soft on China when it came to unfair trade practices. Obama on Monday filed a new trade case against China at the World Trade Organization, accusing it of unfairly subsidizing cars and automobile part exports.
But Nevada has strong ties — or at least potential ties — to the Chinese market. Most visibly, Las Vegas casino companies have helped establish Macau as the world’s largest center for gambling. Additionally, a Chinese subsidiary is looking at building a massive solar project in Laughlin.
Sandoval is joined by about 20 people on the trip, including Steve Hill, the director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and about 20 members of Nevada’s business community.
The trip is being paid for by a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration, according to Sandoval spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner. She said additional details of the trip were not being released because of security concerns.
After Sandoval met with Chinese Ministry of Commerce officials, Hill signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese Investment Promotion Agency, a government division responsible for developing international partnerships.
The memorandum, which was not immediately available on Wednesday, follows a previous memorandum Nevada signed in 2009 with Chinese officials, according to the governor’s office. As the Chinese government “seeks to identify states with business-friendly policies, I want to ensure that Nevada tops the list,” Hill said.
The agreement reflects Nevada’s new economic development plan, passed by lawmakers and signed by Sandoval in 2011, and “illustrates Nevada’s desire to build strong relationships in China.”
Economic development has been a focal point of the Sandoval administration. Previous foreign trade missions had been undertaken by Nevada lieutenant governors, who, before the 2011 law, had led the state’s efforts to attract businesses here.