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Governor: President Hu's visit could open 'amazing' trade
Updated: 2006-03-16 15:51

Chinese President Hu Jintao will visit Washington state next month, cementing business and cultural ties that could lead to "amazing" expansion of two-way trade, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said Wednesday.

The visit, the first to the state by a sitting Chinese president, is April 18 and 19, the governor confirmed. Hu had planned to visit last fall as part of a trip to the United Nations and the White House. But President George W. Bush, tied up with the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, had to reschedule and the Seattle trip was scrubbed.

Gregoire said she's thrilled that the state will get the limelight for its goods and services, which she said the Chinese prize for top quality.

China is already the state's third most important trading partner, with two-way trade of more than US$20 billion in 2004, and Gregoire said the potential for expansion seems limitless. China is a major importer of Washington products, ranging from apples to software to jetliners to biomedical equipment.

Seattle was the first US port used by Chinese shippers after relations were normalized during the Nixon administration. State ports, particularly Seattle and Tacoma, are major gateways for Chinese goods into the United States, as well as outbound goods.

The governor said the visit will increases the state's visibility and that she sees opportunity for a huge emerging market for Washington's goods and services.

"They are a wonderful trading partner already and the potential is amazing," Gregoire told The Associated Press.

"With the Chinese, it is all about relationships, and as a state we have steadfastly maintained our relationship with them over many, many years."

Gregoire visited China last fall and met with China's vice president in Seattle as a runup to this visit. China, the world's most populous nation, has a growing economy that needs Washington products, as well as services such as environmental remediation, she said.

Many Washington businesses are helping with the staging of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and with planning and building infrastructure, she said.

Gregoire said President Hu and the entourage will tour Microsoft and Boeing facilities and that the president has been invited to give a major public address. She said Bill and Melinda Gates will host a state dinner at their Lake Washington mansion.

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