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Governor Hunt Heads to China on a Trade Mission

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RALEIGH — Governor Jim Hunt and an entourage including 24 other state officials left RDU International Saturday morning for a trip to create more business ties between China and North Carolina.

Hunt is expected to meet with representatives of several companies to try and persuade them to open facilities here. The governor will also explore the possibility of exporting North Carolina's goods to China.

Governor Hunt's mission is drawing attention across the state and nation -- Vice President Gore even mentioned the trip at a Charlotte trade summit Friday.

"It's a double measure of Governor Hunt's commitment to the global economy that he is here today, because he's leaving for Shanghai at 7:30 in the morning," said Gore.

The governor postponed the China trip in September, because thelegislaturehad not completed its short session.

Since then, Asia has slipped deeper into economic malaise. Still, RTP employers like one pharmaceutical research firm say trade is worth pursuing.

"This is a long-term opportunity, and the only way you do business in Asia is building relationships. I think short-term economic issues are not really relevant," saidQuintiles TransnationalCEO Dennis Gillings.

TheJohn Locke Foundationagrees that China holds many long-term prospects for North Carolina businesses.

But the conservative think tank, based in Raleigh, does not believe the state should be spending a quarter of a million dollars on a 10-day "trade junket."

N.C. Department of Commerce Secretary Rick Carlisle defends the China trip, saying most business relationships there begin through government contacts.

"The more we can have those relationships with key governmental sectors, the easier it is for businesses in North Carolina to enter into those strategic relationships they have to enter into, if they're going to export and do business in China," said Carlisle.

China is North Carolina's tenth largest trading partner.

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Len Besthoff, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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