Perdue: 'Lots of opportunity' in Asian trade mission

Gov. Beverly Perdue has been impressed by the level of interest and knowledge Asian leaders have about the Tar Heel state. Perdue is on a 12-day trade mission to Japan and China.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Beverly Perdue said Thursday that she has been impressed by the level of interest and knowledge Asian leaders have about the Tar Heel State.

Perdue is on a 12-day trade mission to Japan and China, where she is meeting with government and business leaders to strengthen ties between those markets and the state. She talked to reporters early Thursday in a conference call from Beijing.

The relationship with Japan is mature and sophisticated, Perdue said, a result of long-standing business links. Meanwhile, relations with China as "embryonic," but said she was impressed by how much government ministers already know about the economy of North Carolina.

"There is already an acute awareness of who we are and the fact that we are really a global business partner," she said in a telephone interview from Beijing.

While meeting with businesses already investing in North Carolina, the governor said she's also courting business prospects whose names she wouldn't disclosed. She's also exploring opportunities for the state's agri-biotechnology and pharmaceuticals industries, adding that those she has met with are "blown away" by the investments North Carolina has made in green industries and biotechnology.

"I see tremendous opportunity here," she said. "In my mind, this (trip) is a long-term marker for decades to come."

Perdue emphasized that she was looking for opportunities for mutual benefit between the state and Asian companies.

"What we've done here is start a long-term relationship," she said.  "I think they're very interested in these ... relationships that would be beneficial to the people of North Carolina."

The governor said she has found contrasts in style between Japan and China.

In Japan, advisers told Perdue they operate on a traditional commerce model.

"A company seeks to find a home in North Carolina, then we deal with them," she described. "We help them find a site, encourage them and engage in an interstate bidding war that includes incentives."

China's growing economy is so strong that incentives are not the key factor to luring investment, Perdue observed.

"It is very apparent that they have so much liquidity," she said.

Rather than money and incentives, Chinese companies are looking for support and assistance in navigating the state system, she said.

Companies with a base in Communist China are used to dealing with government entities, she said.

"Government relationships are very important to Chinese companies. The fact that the governor of North Carolina ... is here is a big deal," she said.

Meredith College political science professor Jeff Martinson, who specializes in foreign policy, said building relations with China won't be easy, and any promise of jobs and investment will take time.

"In China, it's not necessarily what you know, but who you know. It's a sign of respect that the governor is going there," Martinson said. "It very well may bear fruit, but it's not an immediate thing. It's not going to be, 'Surprise, here are the jobs.'"

Perdue also noted the "elephant in the room" in working with China, which is among the country's blamed for siphoning off many of North Carolina's manufacturing jobs in recent years. Still, she said, the state can't ignore global partners if it wants to compete.

State officials estimated the trip –  for Perdue, Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco, four of their staff members and security – would cost taxpayers about $77,000. Corporations and economic development booster groups put in an additional $95,000 for business-related events.

Perdue's husband, Bob Eaves, also went on the trip. He paid his own way.

Before she left, Perdue defined the trip in an Ask Anything Q&A on

"We’re going to Asia with one mission: to grow jobs in North Carolina. I’ve said since my first day in office that my No. 1 priority is creating and saving jobs in North Carolina," Perdue said. "We are competing on a global level for jobs and businesses, and our economy will be left behind if we do not act aggressively and form partnerships with our major international economic partners, including China and Japan.

"As second and fourth largest trading partners, China and Japan represent significant growth opportunities for our state – especially in an economic downturn. When this recession ends, North Carolina must be poised to come out with strong economic relationships that allow us to create jobs in this state. This trip will help us do just that."