Gov. Jerry Brown arrived in China on Tuesday, ready to promote California exports, tourism and greenhouse gas-reduction policies, and to open a foreign trade office in Shanghai. He’s joined by a handful of advisers and about 75 business delegates, including three from the central San Joaquin Valley: John Harris, a prominent west-side rancher who is Harris Farms CEO and chairman; Don Peracchi, another west-side grower who is chairman of the Westlands Water District board; and Pete Weber, a leader in California Forward and co-chairman of California Friends of the San Joaquin Valley.
Weber sent a note recapping some of his early impressions:
As just about everyone knows, China has experienced an amazing economic transformation, but there is no substitute for seeing it in person: the impressive construction, the entrepreneurial spirit that has taken over the country, , the commitment to customer service wherever you go, the ascendance of an affluent middle class estimated at about the same size of that in the U.S. (although still representing a relatively small percentage of the Chinese population). In addition to seeing what’s happening locally, it’s very instructive to share experiences with other delegates who are doing business in the country.
We had a very full first half day, with interesting briefings about what’s going in China. The most useful part of our first day was a meeting with the China Chamber of Commerce of Import and Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal-by-Products (try getting that on your business card in both English and Mandarin!). We met with the President of the Chamber and about 15 of the Chamber’s members, all of them interested in importing more from the U.S. Ag exports from California have quadrupled in the last 4 years, but are still a drop in the bucket compared to the potential. Doing business in China is very complex, but the possible benefits to California Ag exporters are huge.
The Governor arrived late yesterday afternoon (flight was an hour late), and after cleaning up at the hotel joined the delegation for dinner. We start the day this morning with the MOU signing ceremony. More later.