Karen Parker, a Dell Inc employee, moves Dell OptiPlex desktop computers into slots for installation of the operating system and other software at the company's facility in Tennessee. Most products exported from Tennessee to China involve chemical and agriculture products,computers, electronics and machines. [Agencies]
The US state of Tennessee last month launched its largest business cooperation tour in China since the state opened an office in Beijing in 2007.
Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen, who first visited the state in 2007, led a delegation of 50 business people to the capital this fall seeking business opportunities and investments.
"This is a return trip not only for me, but for some delegation members, under a very different economic climate. In 2007, we saw hints of a slowdown. Today, we see hints of a recovery," Bredesen said.
Tennessee's exports to China have multiplied 11 times since 2001, making Tennessee China's fastest-growing trading partner in the United States. In 2008, trade between China and the US state reached $1.3 billion.
"Tennessee has an extensive rail network, the second-largest inland port in the US, the world's busiest freight airport and is in the center of the US population," said Matthew Kisber, Tennessee's commissioner of economic and community development.
"What's more, the state's individual tax burden ranks 44 out of 50 states, with no tax on personal income and no state tax on property," Kisber said.
Since 2003, China has been the third-largest overseas market for Tennessee. Among the 50 US states, Tennessee ranks 13 in exports to China, according to Wang Hongbo, commercial counselor for the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
China-US trade slipped 15.8 percent, compared with last year, to $211.9 billion from January to September 2009.
China imported a total $595 million in commodities from Tennessee from January to June this year - a 5 percent year-on-year decline.
Most of the products exported from Tennessee to China involved chemical and agriculture products, computers, electronics and machines.
"A huge potential for cooperation exists between both sides, given that we share a sound policy environment, complementary economic models and massive collaboration fields like energy, agriculture, biotechnology, automobiles and manufacturing," Wang said.
Li Chen Weaver, chief representative of the Tennessee-China Development Center, said the emphasis this year is on new energy, manufacturing and healthcare products and services. Tennessee is looking for long-term relationships with Chinese companies, he said.
"We started to enhance cooperation over energy in the past two years. I hope more Chinese energy companies will step out, invest and extend their business in Tennessee in the future," Li said.
"There are a lot of opportunities in America for (Chinese companies), especially since in the United States we are experiencing an energy industry revolution," Li said.
Kisber described the promotional tour as a means to help Tennessee businesses better understand the opportunities that exist in China, and also to educate Chinese companies about Tennessee.
"The biggest challenge is overcoming what people don't know," Kisber said. "When we understand the different cultures, we can work together to accomplish successful business. It is about trying to find ways that both sides can win."
About 25 percent of the delegates represented the healthcare industry, and others represented transportation and renewable energy sectors.
In 2007, the Tennessee government signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese Ministry of Health in support of China's 124 billion yuan healthcare reform plan.
"As we promote business relationships, we realize that a sustainable relationship is more important, so we are also doing other activities apart from business to connect Tennessee people and Chinese people," Kisber said.