SALT LAKE CITY – World Trade Center Utah (WTC Utah) led Utah government and business leaders on a trade mission to Shanghai and Beijing last week to broaden and strengthen the Utah-China trade relationship.
China is Utah’s third largest trading partner, and, in 2017, Utah exported almost $740 million in goods to China. Top Utah exports to China include computer and electronic products, chemicals, machinery and agricultural products.
“China is one of Utah’s most important markets, even with the ongoing trade dispute,” said Miles Hansen, President & CEO of WTC Utah. “As national governments engage to reach a trade deal, Utah business and government leaders must continue to invest in a strong strategic partnership with China on trade and also in the areas of innovation, education, art and culture. This type of positive engagement develops the trust and relationships necessary to find mutually-beneficial resolutions to the many challenges facing the United States and China.”
The delegation consisted of Scott Anderson, President & CEO of Zions Bank and Chair of WTC Utah; Greg Hughes, Speaker of the House for the Utah House of Representatives; Miles Hansen, President & CEO of WTC Utah; Gary Porter, Senior Vice President of Deseret Management Corporation; Rich Hartvigsen, Vice President of NuSkin International; Darin Parker, President and Managing Director of PMI Foods; Brad Herbert, Senior Vice President & Group Marketing Manager of Zions Bank; Dan Stephenson, Executive Director of Economic Bridge International; Greg Hartley, Chief of Staff of the Utah House of Representatives; and Meg Garfield, Trade Mission Manager for WTC Utah.
While in Shanghai, the chairman of the Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG), the world’s largest port operation, hosted the Utah delegation for dinner along with senior SIPG leaders. SIPG is a global leader in automation and efficiency and is known for its innovation. The group discussed challenges Utah companies face when exporting goods to China as well as Utah’s rapid economic growth and development, including Utah’s inland port.
Also in Shanghai, the Utah delegation met with one of the largest suppliers of China’s immense public health system to discuss opportunities to partner with Utah life sciences companies and visited the Youth Innovation Center — a joint project between the State of Utah and the Jiading District in China — to learn about the important education and innovation ties between Utah and China. All the companies on the trade mission pledged to support joint Utah-China efforts to develop increased collaboration among Utah and Chinese students on science, technology, engineering and math projects. Twenty percent of all Mandarin taught in the United States occurs in Utah, positioning Utah’s students to be leaders in driving increased collaboration between China and the United States in the decades to come.
On the second leg of the trade mission in Beijing, the Utah delegates had several meetings with senior Chinese officials involved with trade, commerce and foreign affairs to discuss challenges and opportunities in expanding Utah-China trade ties, including the potential establishment of a Utah-China joint committee on trade and commerce. U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad convened a meeting with the Utah delegation and leading executives from some of China’s largest tech companies and investment funds. The group discussed ways in which to increase foreign investment from China to Utah and opportunities for Utah companies to expand their operations in China.
The Utah delegation also had the opportunity to join forces with globally-renowned Utah artist Susan Swartz, pianist Mary Anne Huntsman and other prominent leaders from the arts and philanthropies at the grand opening of Susan Swartz’s art exhibition, titled Personal Path, at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, China’s most prestigious art institution. During the art show opening, Brad Herbert read a proclamation from Gov. Gary R. Herbert declaring October 11th as Utah-China Cultural Friendship Day.
Through their endeavors in business, art and education, the trade mission caught the attention of the largest press outlets in China, including People’s Daily (daily circulation of 200 million), Xinhua News (China’s largest online media platform), and Global Times (the largest English media outlet in the country). Each publication highlighted Utah and the delegation’s efforts to broaden the Utah-China relationship in the areas of art, education, innovation, trade and investment.
WTC Utah and members of the Utah delegation are clear-eyed about the challenges of doing business with China and the need for improved market access, intellectual property protection and reciprocal terms of trade. While looking to national governments to forge a trade deal that addresses these areas of concern, WTC Utah believes that nurturing a broad and vibrant Utah-China relationship through positive engagement and frank discussions will create additional trade and investment opportunities for Utah businesses while also providing new mutually-beneficial avenues for cooperation in education, innovation and the arts.