Friday, April 18
As a former business executive and Chamber of Commerce CEO, I understand the important role trade missions play in increasing communication and building foreign markets for American and Georgia products. Recently, I was honored to travel with Gov. Sonny Perdue and a delegation of Georgia business, education and economic development leaders to China.
China is one the world's most rapidly growing economies. China is already Georgia's second-largest trading partner -- second only to Canada. In 2007, U.S. goods exported to China exceeded $65 billion, including $1.6 billion from Georgia. Growing financial wealth in emerging economies such as China and India is creating significant opportunities for U.S. businesses and our national and state economies.
This mission provided the delegation an opportunity to strengthen existing trade relationships and establish new markets for Georgia products. The highlight of the mission was Gov. Perdue officially opening the Georgia Business Advisory Center in downtown Beijing. This Center will serve as an important first step for Georgian and Chinese companies seeking to establish relationships and trading opportunities.
This trip also served as a time of reflection and consideration of China's positions on human rights and Tibet, as well as its hosting of the Olympic Games this summer. Recent reports of the suppression of activists and dissension are disturbing to say the least. But we should consider whether human rights in China are better advanced through economic and cultural development and engagement with the United States or through isolationism and other potential trading sanctions.
In my view -- and as we have seen throughout the world -- the economic progress that comes with investments and exchanges can lead to individual freedoms and liberty. This was reinforced through numerous interactions during our time in China. American business executives working in China with leading companies like UPS and Coke told of changes that are already under way. We met with Chinese business executives who expressed a keen interest not just in doing business with Georgia -- but in how we do business and how we live.
The Internet and more open communications in China are bringing the world -- and new viewpoints -- to the Chinese people. There was the mayor of Shanghai who was interested and excited to discuss economic partnership opportunities, but he was most enthusiastic about, of all things, professional basketball and the NBA. Thanks to Yao Ming, the mayor and millions of Chinese citizens are basketball fans! The Internet is introducing millions of Chinese citizens to our writers, our religious leaders and our musicians.
The positive influences of American culture, freedoms and capitalism are growing in China. All across the globe, we have witnessed the miracles of individual liberties borne through economic empowerment and cultural exchanges. Positive changes are occurring in China -- albeit not as rapidly and smoothly as we would like. But, they are occurring, and the people of China and the United States are better served because of them.
I was grateful for this opportunity to travel with the governor and Mrs. Perdue and the entire delegation of Georgians throughout China, to learn about the Chinese culture and economy and, most important, tell the story of the wonderful state we call home.