Written by Katie Whitchurch, Director of Government Relations
Over the course of the last month, Arizona has been home to a number of exciting events related to international diplomacy and trade:
On Thursday, November 10th, the Arizona Council for International Visitors held the first annual “Celebration of Citizen Diplomacy” at the Musical Instrument Museum in northeast Phoenix. Featuring speakers from the National Council for International Visitors, International Visitors Leadership Program with the US Department of State and Congressman Ben Quayle for the keynote address, this event was designed to recognize the important contribution that regular citizens can play in international diplomacy.
On Wednesday, November 16th, I saddled up the pony and took a road trip down to Nogales, Sonora with the US Commercial Service and 50 other attendees for a Maquilla Expo and short tour of the city. A majority of American businesses attending were small to medium sized manufacturers looking to expand operations into the Mexican market and take advantage of Sonora’s continued growth. They were not disappointed. The Expo was brimming with manufacturers of all shapes, sizes and industries. Technical universities, pest control, sign production, corrugated boxes, supply companies, machine shops; these were just a few of the Mexican and foreign businesses already operating within Nogales. They were looking for suppliers, purchasers, partners – the opportunities were expansive.
Finally, on November 17th, the Arizona Chamber was a community partner at the timely “Building Strategic Partnerships with Korea: Korea’s Joint Local Government Investment Conference.” Our office was a supporter of the recently signed Free Trade Agreement and this conference served as the first step towards further expansion of Korea / Arizona relationships under the newly opened markets. Attendees at the event were given a detailed look at six of Korea’s markets and the various benefits they have to offer for foreign investors. In addition, President & CEO, Glenn Hamer, addressed attendees during lunch and praised the efforts of the Arizona Commerce Authority and Governor Jan Brewer for their work to promote Arizona as an international player. He thanked Yeon-sung Shin, the Consul General for Korea in Los Angeles for his attendance and recognition of Arizona’s importance to the Korean market.
All three of these events are indicative of Arizona’s continued growth in the realm of international trade and it could not come at a better time.
For the past ten years, Arizona has lagged behind the nation in embracing foreign trade. In fact, a recent article highlighted the disturbing fact that whilst the American average hovered near 64 percent, “…Arizona grew fourth-slowest of all states in international trade, at a sluggish 9.1 percent.” Northern Mexico continues to grow into a hub for manufacturing, especially in the areas of defense and aerospace and automotives, while Korea maintains high demand for key Arizona industries. Indeed, last year over 530 Arizona jobs were contingent upon exports to Korea, a number expected to grow by close to 100 percent with the signing of the FTA. In Mexico that number is even higher: with $5.05 billion worth of goods exported from Arizona to our southern neighbor last year and 235,700 jobs reliant upon trade.
It is time for Arizona to embrace its role as an economically competitive and business friendly state and seize upon the innumerable opportunities for growth.
These events have been a good start. They have highlighted the role of citizens in the spread of American ideals and culture. They have embraced our largest trading partner and neighbor, allowing manufacturers recovering from the recession an opportunity to expand their business. They have illuminated a new opportunity for growth and investment by opening the door to personal relationships with an economy recently rid of uncompetitive tariffs. It will be some time before we reach our full potential on the global stage but events like these place us on the right track.
Interested in getting more involved in international trade? Looking for increased networking opportunities? I encourage you to check out the following websites and events:
Arizona Commerce Authority. More information available here.
Arizona Council for International Visitors. More information available here.
Arizona International Growth Group. More information available here.