The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 10/07/07
Beijing � If Georgia officials get their way, local executives will soon be able to obtain Chinese visas in Atlanta, fly from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport directly to several Chinese cities and pitch business ideas to a new trade development office in Beijing.
The three goals are central to an effort by Georgia and Atlanta to bolster growing trade ties with the world's fastest-growing large economy � an endeavor that began paying dividends recently when the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Delta Air Lines a coveted slot to fly between Atlanta and Shanghai.
|The CMA CGM China along with
many other ships ties up to the docks of the
Savannah Port Authority on Wednesday, April 11,
As China's economy has grown, Chinese companies have also begun investing in Georgia, with three Chinese firms announcing during the past 16 months that they would build factories in the state.
"China is very important to us, and we see growing trade opportunities," said Heidi Green, the deputy commissioner for global commerce at Georgia's Department of Economic Development. "We're about growing investment and jobs in Georgia."
Atlanta is also in the running for ChinaMex, a proposed $700 million joint venture involving the Ministry of Commerce. ChinaMex, a business incubator, helps Chinese companies expand overseas. San Francisco is considered Atlanta's competition for one of the year's most-coveted Chinese investments in the United States.
Exports to China from Georgia have nearly tripled over the past five years to more than $1 billion, making it the state's third-largest export destination behind Canada and Mexico. Imports from China through Savannah topped $10.3 billion last year, up 25 percent from 2005.
To build on that growth � and overcome what some experts see as past missteps � the state's Department of Economic Development will soon open an office in Beijing, Green said, adding that the department has hired a director and is waiting for final Chinese government paperwork.
"We have tried to be very deliberate in our process of opening, not just for today but for years to come," Green said.
Atlanta and Georgia are also confident China will locate a planned new consulate in Atlanta.
Chinese officials have expressed interest in building a new consulate in the United States but have not said where or when construction will begin. It's something they would need to decide with Washington's approval, for which state officials and business leaders have been lobbying, said Jorge Fernandez, the vice president of global commerce at the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.
"We are optimistic it will happen, and we are very optimistic that when it happens it will be Atlanta," Fernandez said.