Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin made his administration’s first economic development and trade mission trip to China earlier this month. An official in the economic development cabinet sees opportunities to grow Chinese owned manufacturing in Kentucky.
Last year, Kentucky exports to China hit record levels at more than $2.8 billion in products and services. But, during the same period, Kentucky imported more than $8 billion in goods and services from China.
The state is home to much Japanese investment. Erran Persley, director of international affairs in the state economic development cabinet, believes more can be done to locate Chinese based firms in the bluegrass state. “We have about 200 companies from Japan who have invested in Kentucky and yet, we only have, eight Chinese companies that have invested in Kentucky. Now the footprint of those companies is pretty large,” said Persley.
Persley says that footprint totals about 8700 employees including those working at GE in Louisville and Lexmark in Lexington.
The president of the Kentucky World Trade Center believes the Bevin administration is taking appropriate steps in trying to increase Chinese investment in the Commonwealth. Ed Webb believes trade tariff concerns will subside in time and Kentucky will be in line to solicit more investment from China. “This cabinet is trying to do, this administration in Frankfort, and it makes a lot of sense, is rather than turn a blind eye to what’s happening, with Kentucky trade or international trade, let’s be proactive and put ourselves in a spot where we can take advantage and position Kentucky to move forward quickly,” noted Webb.
Persley, meanwhile, says the America-China economic relationship shouldn’t be characterized as a “trade war”, but “big trade negotiations” instead.