California Opens Shanghai Trade Office as Exports Slump

California Governor Jerry Brown is scheduled to reopen a trade office in China, the state’s third-largest market, after exports to the world’s most populous nation slipped in 2012.

Businesses are footing the $1 million annual cost of the Shanghai outpost, along with support staff in California, said Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council, a San Francisco-based advocacy group sponsoring the mission.

California exported $14 billion in products to China in 2012, down 1.5 percent from 2011, though still the most of any state, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. The Golden State closed its trade offices in Shanghai and Beijing in 2003 because of budget cuts.

“We think this is a major step in building a bridge between China and California,” Wunderman said in a conference call with reporters.

Brown, a 75-year-old Democrat, was scheduled to inaugurate the Shanghai office today as part of a seven-day trip to China, which ranks behind only Mexico and Canada as a California export market. Civilian aircraft parts, diamonds and communications equipment had the highest dollar value, according to the Census.

Seventeen states, including Florida, Pennsylvania and Idaho, already have trade offices in China, according to information compiled by Marc Ross, a spokesman for the nonprofit U.S.-China Business Council in Washington.

North Carolina, which exported $2.5 billion in products to China last year, operates trade offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai at a cost of $321,870 a year, said Joshua Ellis, a spokesman for the state’s Commerce Department.

The offices helped small- to medium-sized companies, particularly technology businesses, gain access to Chinese customers, Ellis said by e-mail. North Carolina exports to China fell 3.3 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to Census data.

California’s unemployment rate fell to 9.6 percent in February, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. California tied with Mississippi and Nevada for that month’s highest unemployment rates, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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