Governor will lead first trade mission to China this spring 01.03.13

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Gov. Scott Walker soon will learn firsthand just how tough it is to compete with China.

Walker announced Thursday that he will head to China in April on his first trade mission to tout Wisconsin exports in sectors like advanced manufacturing and automation, water technology and food processing.

But no other nation has erected as many barriers to trade as China, at least in the view of the U.S. Trade Representative's office. In its latest National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers - an annual catalog of alleged trade discrimination, barriers, tariffs, duties and quotas - the agency's chapter on China runs 40 single-spaced pages, covering a gamut from steel to auto parts to films, music and intellectual property.

At 14 pages, India is the runner-up while every other nation is 10 pages or less.

"U.S. businesses are very unhappy with business conditions in China," said Robert E. Scott, a senior international economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

China's economic growth has been blistering and disruptive: It has become the world's biggest exporter, it ranks as the world's biggest automobile market and it overtook Japan as the world's second largest economy.

"Various U.S. industries are concerned about Chinese policies that may discriminate against foreign products," the U.S. Trade Representative's office wrote.

Wisconsin exports to China totaled $1.38 billion in 2011, more than to any other country except Canada and Mexico.

Walker's China trade mission is scheduled for April 12-21 and marks his first foreign trip for economic purposes. In his hectic first two years marked by labor protests at the Capitol and an unsuccessful recall attempt against him, Walker didn't make any foreign trade trips, although he did do some traveling to other states for economic development.

Walker did travel to Kosovo in September to visit Wisconsin National Guard troops there.

On his mission to Wisconsin's third-largest export market, Walker will be accompanied by representatives of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

"China remains an important and viable market for key Wisconsin exports including industrial machinery, medical equipment, clean energy and clean water technologies, and agricultural products," Walker said in a statement.

The mission will include meetings in Beijing, Shanghai, Hefei and Harbin.

The U.S. merchandise trade deficit with China represents the biggest trade imbalance between any two nations on the planet. In 2011, the U.S. trade deficit widened to a record $296 billion, an increase of over 8%, and is expected to reach another record when 2012 data are reported.

"This mission will help continue the growth of Wisconsin's exports to China and position the state of as an international destination for foreign institutional capital," said Ulice Payne Jr., co-chair of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce's China Council.