City Beat

Sacramento’s trade mission to China aims to attract investment

A delegation of Sacramento city officials, trade representatives and college faculty head to China this week for what has become an annual trade mission to the metropolis of Chongqing.

City officials said the focus of the trip is to recruit Chinese investment in public and private projects back home and to increase Sacramento’s profile overseas.

Sacramento opened a trade office in the municipality of roughly 30 million people last year. Situated in the southwestern part of China, Chongqing is a major manufacturing and transportation hub.

City officials signed a memorandum of understanding with their counterparts in Chongqing two years ago and have set aside just under $100,000 a year for the trade office, which could be Sacramento’s first foreign consulate.

China is already a major California trading partner. Last year, the state exported $16.4 billion worth of goods to China. Only Canada and Mexico bought more California goods.

The Sacramento delegation leaving this week includes city employees; faculty from UC Davis, Drexel University and California State University, Sacramento; and local leaders in trade, produce and clean technology. They will be joined by members of the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, China.

The cost for two city employees to attend the trip is $10,000. Other members of the delegation are paying for their own travel.

Jim Rinehart, the city’s director of economic development, said one of the public projects officials plan to discuss with potential Chinese investors is the planned streetcar system to link downtown and West Sacramento.

Federal Transit Administration officials announced last week that they would work with local governments on developing the system. That announcement was seen as a pivotal step toward securing up to half of the funding for the $150 million project from the federal government.

The rest of the funding would likely come from local sources, but the streetcar system could also be “a potential investment” for Chinese firms, Rinehart said.

Another focus of the trip will be promoting exports from the Sacramento region, especially agricultural goods and clean technology. Sacramento officials will bring fresh cherries from the Central Valley to celebrate a new agreement that allows area farms to ship directly to Chongqing, instead of through port cities thousands of miles away.

Rinehart said more than 100 students and 50 college faculty from Chongqing studied at Sacramento-area universities during the current school year and that this week’s trip will try to “advance further our educational and cultural ties.”

Finally, the delegation will work to promote Sacramento to Chongqing’s population and business leaders. The delegation is hosting a contest with high school students in China, judging them on their knowledge of Sacramento. The winner will receive a trip here.

More than 20,000 Sacramento residents are Chinese American – the largest Asian ethnic group in the city, census figures show.

“No one will do business with us, much less invest in our community, unless they know who we are,” Rinehart said.