Junket report | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Junket report

Posted By on Thu, Aug 20, 2009 at 10:19 AM

Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is going to China. The news release has all the usual gloss about how this is an economic development trip. (As if Wal-Mart needs a  lt. gov.'s  help to exploit China.) It's a junket paid by a foreign lobby interested in cozying up to whatever U.S. public officials will take its freebies, same deal as the House speaker's recent Taiwan holiday.



LITTLE ROCK (August 20, 2009) -- Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter will promote Arkansas economic interests while in China next week as part of an economic development mission coordinated by the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA).

“I’m going to China with one overriding purpose, which is to help Arkansas farmers and businesses access one of the world’s largest markets,” Halter said.  “Meetings are set with Chinese government officials and business executives to discuss existing and potential market opportunities for Arkansans.  China has more than 1.3 billion consumers, more than four times the U.S. population.  Arkansas needs our share of that market.”

The Lieutenant Governor is scheduled to visit a Wal-Mart store Monday morning in Beijing.  He is scheduled to leave for China on Saturday morning, arrive in the Chinese capital on Sunday and return to Little Rock on Saturday, Aug. 30.

In preparing for the trip, Halter spoke with the presidents of international operations for both Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores and Springdale-based Tyson Foods as well as with the presidents and chief executives of Little Rock-based Acxiom Corporation, Fort Smith-based Baldor Electric Company, the Arkansas Farm Bureau, the Arkansas Rice Growers Association and the Rogers-based Arkansas World Trade Center, which works to promote international trade throughout the state and region.

“China already provides a significant market for Arkansas soybeans and cotton production,” said Randy Veach of Manila (Mississippi County), president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau.  “Going forward, the Chinese market presents potentially very large opportunities for Arkansas rice growers, beef producers and poultry producers.  We commend Lieutenant Governor Halter for his work in expanding opportunities for Arkansas farmers during his trip to China.”

Arkansas is the nation’s largest rice-growing state, accounting for roughly 50 percent of the U.S. crop.

"The opening of the Chinese market to U.S. rice would open up the largest single consumer market in the world to Arkansas producers,” said Greg Yielding of North Little Rock, executive director of the Arkansas Rice Growers Association. “It will be a value-added profitable market benefiting the entire U.S. rice industry."

Yielding surveyed Chinese grocery store customers about what kind of rice they liked during a visit to Shanghai in June.  He sees an opportunity, especially among China’s growing base of middle- and upper-income consumers, whom he believes would be willing to pay a premium for the higher-quality, long-grain rice grown in the United States.
Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, opened a Supercenter and Sam’s Club in Shenzhen, China, in 1996, according to the company’s China Fact Sheet.  Wal-Mart currently operates 256 retail units in China, including 144 Supercenters and 104 Trust-Mart Hypermarkets.  Wal-Mart purchased a 35 percent stake in Trust-Mart in 2007.  The Arkansas retail giant employs 54,443 people in China and Trust-Mart has another 36,086 employees, according to the Fact Sheet.

Tyson Foods, the world’s largest meat producer, has been exporting chicken to China since 1989.  Tyson Fresh Meats, which includes the company's beef and pork business, started exporting to Hong Kong in the mid-1980s.  In 2008, China accounted for 12 percent of Tyson’s international chicken sales, 10 percent of international beef sales and 9 percent of international pork sales, according to Tyson Foods’ Fiscal 2008 Fact Book.

 “Increasing U.S. meat and poultry exports to China, as well as expanding our operations in China, are part of our long-term growth strategy,” said Rick Greubel, group vice president-international for Tyson Foods.  “With chain restaurants opening in China at the rate of one every 18 hours, we have an opportunity to supply some of our U.S. customers as they increase their presence there."
Acxiom, the world’s largest processor of consumer data, has offices in Beijing and Shanghai and views the Asia-Pacific market as a rapidly developing region for interactive marketing services.  The Chinese telecommunications market is the largest in the world.
“China’s rapidly developing economy presents an existing and fast-growing market for Acxiom’s customer-insight-driven marketing services,” said John Meyer, chief executive officer and president of Acxiom Corporation.  “As a global business, contracts we sign with China would mean new work and new income for Acxiom employees in Arkansas.”
Aside from meetings the Lieutenant Governor is scheduling on his own, the NLGA has worked with the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries to schedule meetings with high ranking government officials, tours of a working farm and of a 50/50 US/China company-owned engine plant, and conversations with members of the US-China Chamber of Commerce.
Also making the trip to China will be Idaho Lieutenant Governor Brad Little, Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Carol Molnau, Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant, Montana Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger, North  Dakota Lieutenant Governor Jack Dalrymple and Secretary of State Ken McClintock of Puerto Rico.  The NLGA contingent will spend Monday through Wednesday in Beijing, and Thursday and much of Friday in Zhengzhou, the capital of China’s Henan Province.  The Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries is paying all trip expenses.

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