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Think Locally, Grow Globally

By Marshall Kirby | May 27, 2011 | No Comments

Governor Bob McDonnell recently departed for an 11 day tour of Asia promoting trade and investment in the Commonwealth. His trip included stops in South Korea, China, and Japan – the three largest economies in East Asia. The trip was announced at a total cost of $278,000. This is the second foreign trade visit overseas for Governor McDonnell; in July 2010, he completed a similar mission to Europe.

During this trade visit, the Governor promoted Virginia through agriculture and tourism, with less emphasis placed on other economic sectors. The trip has been mildly criticized by politicians on both sides of the aisle, as they argue over its effectiveness, the cost, and the budget implications. Norm Leahy of the Washington Examiner pointed out: “It does look a little bad when the governor is going over there to spend money on the same day he vetoed spending on public broadcasting. Is Big Bird paying for the trip?”

There is no doubt that the Commonwealth can benefit from foreign trade and investment. Japan, despite its economic problems in the last decade still remains a major economy, and Japanese firms are regarded as key innovators in their fields. China is the world’s fastest growing economy, and could be a substantial trading partner. South Korea has been a rising economic power over the years, with a strong balance of technology and manufacturing. However, getting foreign firms from Asia to invest, trade, and do business in Virginia is not enough. It may create jobs, but there should be an emphasis on making sure communities truly benefit from the arrangement. In the past politicians have rushed into trade agreements which have not benefited our communities. Instead of job creation, many communities dependent on manufacturing have lost jobs.

In future trips, Governor McDonnell should promote other aspects of Virginia outside of the beneficial corporate climate for multinationals. Small businesses are extremely important to the prosperity our residents, and our communities and business owners could really benefit from some overseas trade promotion. Unfortunately, many of our small businesses lack the resources and the access to technical assistance needed to take advantage of global opportunities. Increasing funding for technical assistance programs aimed at raising small business’ export potential and ability become part of global supply chains would go a long way in promoting and developing Virginia’s local economy on the global level.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of members of the NDP Steering Committee.

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