Gov. Mike Lowry travels to Japan and Taiwan next week on his last international trade mission as the state’s chief executive.
Lowry will head a delegation of trade and investment officials leaving the state Sunday and returning Oct. 19.
In Taiwan, the visitors will conduct investment seminars in Taipei and Kaohsiung to alert local businesses to opportunities in Washington. Lowry will meet with Taiwan President Li Teng-hui and Premier Lien Chan.
From Kaohsiung, the governor will travel to Japan, where he and Gov. Toshitami Kaihara of Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, will tour areas devastated by the January 1995 earthquake. Washington businesses have been helping to rebuild the city. Washington also has a sister-state relationship with Hyogo.
The trip will help bolster Washington’s already-strong commercial links with Pacific Rim nations, Lowry said at a news conference at the Hyogo Cultural Center, a Japanese center near downtown Seattle.
“Our trade relationship with Japan, our trade relationship with Taiwan, is that which increases the quality of life of people on both ends of that trade,” the governor said.
He noted that Japan is Washington’s largest trading partner and Taiwan ranks fifth.
Figures compiled by the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development show Washington exported $8.7 billion in goods to Japan in 1995. Total two-way trade between Washington and Japan was $29.2 billion.
State exports to Taiwan totaled $2.4 billion last year, and two-way trade was nearly $6 billion.
“I think it’s fascinating to think that for the first 100 years this state was the most remote state in the continental United States, and with the growth of the Pacific basin … we’re now dead center in the middle of the bull’s eye in the most economically dynamic region for probably the next 20 to 30 years in the world,” said Mike Fitzgerald, director of the state trade agency.
“It’s quite appropriate that as our last trade mission, which basically this will be, that we go to these two areas,” he said.
One in five jobs in Washington depends on trade, and Asia represents a huge, virtually untapped market, Lowry noted.
Washington has already scored one coup in Taiwan. In March, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. chose Camas in southwest Washington as the site of a $1.2 billion computer-chip plant. Camas was chosen over Hillsboro, Ore., in part because Washington offered new tax breaks for manufacturing companies.
Lowry and several other state officials returned last week from a five-day trade mission to the Russian Far East. They announced an agreement with the Russian city of Khabarovsk for a pilot project to speed customs procedures between the Port of Seattle and a Russian port.
Lowry is not running for re-election and his term expires in mid-January. He has said the cost of such trips will be repaid hundreds of times over by increased international trade.