PORTLAND, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage will lead a delegation of Maine companies and educational institutions on a trade mission in October to China and Japan, which were the state’s second- and fourth-highest export destinations last year.
Janine Bisaillon-Cary, president of the Maine International Trade Center, said in a written statement that the mission hopes to build on a combined $300 million export market in those countries and also attract investment into Maine.
Her office this year hired consultants in China to help lure foreign investment into Maine.
“Although already very important trading partners, both markets represent tremendous opportunities for export expansion,” Bisaillon-Cary said.
Thomas Shiekman, director of MITC’s investment attraction effort in Shanghai, said in a March interview with the Bangor Daily News that China recently lifted restrictions on foreign investment, freeing up investors who have placed their money in U.S. government bonds to look to elsewhere.
Bisaillon-Cary cited the Woodland Pulp and St. Croix Tissue mills in Baileyville, food producer World Harbors in Auburn and automotive component maker Somic America in Brewer as examples of Maine businesses or factories with corporate parents based in China or Japan.
The trip will also focus on enticing high school and college students from both countries to study in Maine.
LePage, in a statement, said he hopes the trip will lead to attracting more students here and further develop relationships with some investors in Asia with whom state officials have been in contact.
LePage took part in a previous trade mission to China in 2012 and visited the country in June 2014 for meetings with the Chinese conglomerate Norinco, which is considering manufacturing rail cars at the former Loring air base in Limestone.
The return trip to Asia in such a short time frame shows an increasing interest for trade officials in the region. The 2012 trip was the first gubernatorial mission to mainland China. Gov. Angus King took part in a trade mission to Taiwan and Hong Kong in 1999 and Gov. John Baldacci participated in a trade mission to Japan and South Korea in 2007.
“We will also educate Asian importers about the superior quality of Maine lobsters, as well as many of our excellent Maine-manufactured products,” LePage said in a written statement about the upcoming trip.
The value of Maine seafood exports has tripled since 2009, led by growth in the export of fresh lobster.
The trade center on Wednesday opened registration for the trip that will visit Tokyo from Oct. 25 to Oct. 27 and then Shanghai until Oct. 31.