MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Bob Riley leads a mission to China and Japan this week in hopes of growing global trade opportunities for his state.
Riley will spend several days in China before heading to Japan next weekend for the 31st Annual Southeast U.S./ Japan Association economic development conference in Tokyo.
In China, the Republican governor expects to meet with business prospects and lay the groundwork for a trip next spring aimed at boosting trade opportunities for Alabama firms.
Next spring, 10 to 15 Alabama firms will join Riley on the China trip, as recruiters aim to match their products with markets.
Riley's first business mission to China came last year.
''What we're trying to do is to really put the flag in the ground, build the relationships, build the roots, so that we can grow global business for the state,'' Alabama Development Office Director Neal Wade told The Birmingham News for a story Sunday.
On this trip, Riley also will address efforts to establish an economic development office in China, meeting with an international affiliate of the Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz law firm contracted to represent Alabama.
ADO already has offices in Japan, South Korea and Europe — all mature markets for Alabama companies.
''China is not, so we're really at the very beginning of that relationship,'' Wade said, adding that the current focus in China will be expanding trade for Alabama companies. ''At this point, that's probably more of what's going to happen in terms of business between Alabama and China than getting a Chinese company to pick up and come over here. That's going to happen one day, and we want to build those relationships, but that's not really the purpose of this trip.''
Alabama currently has no Chinese manufacturers, according to ADO.
Mainland China now ranks sixth among destinations for Alabama exporters, with $662.2 million in shipments 2006, while Taiwan ranks 14th, with $202.3 million.
Germany is currently the state's top trading partner, with $3.6 billion in exports last year.
In Japan, Riley will meet with prospects and join the Alabama delegates who hail from across the state, including Birmingham and Jefferson, Shelby and St. Clair counties.
Representatives from companies such as Alabama Power Co., Honda, Toyota, Sony Electronics and Daikin America also are a part of the group.
Delegations from eight Southeastern states will attend the conference, which is held in Japan and in the participating states on a rotating basis.
This year's schedule features seminars on trade, logistics, energy, alternative fuels, education and training.
On Friday, ADO and its Japan office will host a seminar for Japanese companies that may be looking to expand in the Southeast and Alabama. Following the conference, which runs from Sunday to Tuesday, the state will hold a reception to honor Japanese companies that have investments in Alabama, with representatives from more than 60 companies invited.
More than 200 international firms have operations in Alabama, and Japan has more than any other country. Japanese companies employ more than 14,000 in the state.