Salem, OR—At the invitation of Tianjin, China, I will lead an Oregon trade delegation to China. The delegation will depart from Portland on November 8, 2017 and return on November 20. Tianjin (population 15.5 million), is Oregon's sister-state/city and is located 35 minutes southeast of Beijing by bullet train.
Although this will be my 12th delegation to China, it will be my first international delegation as Oregon's Secretary of State. The delegation has two primary purposes:
1. Oregon small, medium, and large businesses have been offered an opportunity to display “Oregon's Finest” products in China-Tianjin International Sister City Pavilion. This eCommerce platform is the result of years of hard work by Jin Lan, President of Oregon-China Sister State Relations Council (OCSSRC), to increase Oregon exports to Chinese consumers via the internet. Jin Lan is also the delegation organizer. For more information, visit the OCSSRC website.
The Pavilion will give Oregon businesses the opportunity to reach millions of Chinese consumers without the expense and uncertainty of warehousing huge stocks of inventory in China.
2. Oregon Business Promotion - While in China, Oregon business leaders traveling with the delegation will meet with consumers, distributors, and Chinese government officials. Relationships are important in Chinese culture, and having the opportunity to meet face-to-face with their Chinese counterparts will be an invaluable networking and business development opportunity.
Henry Lawrence, a young Oregon entrepreneur, will be a part of the delegation. Henry graduated from the University of Oregon last year with a major in Chinese language and Finance. Using his website (henryforest.net), language skills, and social media, he markets to Chinese tourists who are interested in “destination vacations” that focus on attending major US sporting events.
Like Henry, if you have an interest in marketing your business products or services to Chinese consumers and would like to join the delegation, check out OCSSRC's website.
OCSSRC is an Oregon non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization dedicated to promoting the mutual interests of Oregon and China. I helped organize the OCSSRC in 2004 and remain the Registered Agent. Although I haven't had much involvement since 2012, OCSSRC graciously offered to pay my transportation expenses to and from China, but to avoid any appearance of undue-influence, I will be paying for the round-trip economy fare from the Secretary of State travel budget. Since I have Type 1 Diabetes and blood circulation health considerations, I will be upgrading my seat on the 12-hour flight using my own funds. Once in China, as part of their international outreach budgets the local Chinese government organizations cover the costs of American officials. Thus, other than the cost of the airfare ($523) for an economy seat, my expenses for this delegation will not be paid from Oregon public funds.
For the record, I have received no financial benefit from any of the 11 previous delegations to China, and I will receive none from this trip. I own no interest in any company attending any of these delegations and I have never received any compensation from OCSSRC. My payment is the personal satisfaction I get from helping Oregon businesses grow their markets and from inviting Chinese investors, tourists, and officials to discover Oregon's culture and beauty.
When I lead delegations to China, I often conclude our meetings with this friendly, light-hearted invitation:
"Come to Oregon! When you come to Oregon, you will experience real American adventures; meet real Americans, and buy your souvenirs duty-free—airports may have a duty-free store, but Oregon is a duty-free state."
Are these international delegations worthwhile? Since my first delegation to China in 2002, China has become Oregon's #1 export destination, up from #15. Chinese tourists have become Oregon's #1 source of international visitors. I take no credit for such successes, but if my efforts contributed even a small part, that would make them worthwhile to Oregon businesses and to me.
Expect a full report about the trip in December.