OLYMPIA – Washington has a new “sister” state, half a world away.
Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is in Asia on a trade mission, announced Wednesday that Andhra Pradesh in southeast India is joining with Washington in a sister-state relationship that has opportunities for business, cultural, medical and educational exchanges.
A 25-person delegation is in Hyderabad, which is the capital and largest city in Andhra Pradesh. They hope to sell to people in the new sibling state everything from airplanes to french fries.
Although India is the second-most populous country in the world, it isn’t even in the top 20 among countries that buy goods from trade-dependent Washington state. The trade mission is looking to change that and establish new or expanded connections in life sciences, aerospace and information technology.
Microsoft already has a large presence in India, as well as a campus that is second only to its Redmond facility, Gregoire said. SightLife, a Seattle-based organization that fights corneal blindness, works with the L.V. Prassad Eye Institute in Hyderabad and on Wednesday opened a new center that specializes in corneal transplants. Eventually, they hope to do 100,000 transplants a year.
“This mission is to bring jobs to Washington state,” Gregoire said. A growing middle class in India is a potential market for the state’s potato and fruit crop, especially if the government will relax tariffs that can raise the cost of those products by 50 percent.
But to establish business relationships in Asia, it’s important to first establish personal relationships, she said.
Later in the trip, the trade mission will stop in South Korea. The cost of travel for the governor and other state officials on the trip came from grants and foreign governments that invited them; there’s no cost to state taxpayers, Gregoire said.