Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Economic Development Commission Director Mike Preston will travel to Japan and China on a business recruitment trip Nov. 15-24, Hutchinson announced Friday (Nov. 6) in a press conference.
The two will meet with companies that are considering locating or expanding in the United States, as well as those with an interest in or a current presence in Arkansas. Hutchinson said they will be meeting with more than a dozen companies in the two countries and will contact numerous government officials. They will also meet with some of the 18 Japanese companies that employ more than 5,400 Arkansans.
Hutchinson and Preston said they will meet with two prospective manufacturing companies and a food processing company in Tokyo Nov. 17, followed by meetings the next day with two manufacturing companies and with U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy. Hutchinson also will speak at a luncheon organized by the American Chamber of Commerce.
Hutchinson and Preston will visit multiple provinces in China Nov. 19-24, with the trip ending in Beijing. The two state leaders will meet with government officials and companies that have expressed in interest in Arkansas or are believed to be interested and with Ambassador Max Baucus in Beijing Nov. 24.
They will also pursue export opportunities and target potential investments in Arkansas by both countries. Hutchinson said Wal-Mart Stores is trying to bring manufacturing back to the United States and China is recognizing its need to move manufacturing here.
“There’s an extraordinary connection between Arkansas and China just in terms of the presence of Wal-Mart, and I think we’ve failed as a state really to capitalize on the known presence of Wal-Mart in China, and to emphasize investment opportunity in this state as a result of Wal-Mart’s presence there,” he said. “And so there’s a connectivity that Arkansas has with China that is really unique among the states because of Wal-Mart’s presence there.”
Hutchinson said he did not “have expectations of immediate results” from the trip, but that it would create future opportunities for Arkansas. He said Arkansas’ current exports to China are largely in the aerodefense industry, which he said will be touted on the trip. He also mentioned the state’s steel industry.
He has made one previous visit to northern China and two visits to Hong Kong in private and governmental capacities. Hutchinson traveled to northern China on business and developed relationships and name recognition in China through his previous service in government when he was undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security. He said he would be able to capitalize on his previous contacts and has experience navigating China’s business-government partnership.
This will be Hutchinson’s third international trip as governor after traveling to Europe and Cuba this year. He said the recent trip to Cuba led to the lifting of a ban on Arkansas poultry that the country had imposed after an avian flu outbreak.
“I was able to raise that issue with high government officials in Cuba. They transmitted that request for a review to the department of agriculture, and within a few days that ban was lifted,” he said.
The trip to China and Japan is funded through the AEDC budget and its foundation. Hutchinson said the delegation would be composed of himself, the first lady, Preston and a few others. He did not have cost estimates.
Hutchinson played a game of pickup basketball with the Cuban national team. Asked if he would play hoops on this trip, he said, “It might be ping-pong.”