HALTER NEWS RELEASE
LITTLE ROCK (August 31, 2009) -- Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter today announced that the state of Arkansas and China’s most populous province, Henan Province, have signed a letter of intent to promote common business interests and generate trade and investment opportunities.
Halter and Feng Yongchen, director-general of the Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the People’s Government of Henan Province, signed English and Chinese versions of the letter while Halter was in the provincial capital of Zhengzhou, China, on Friday as part of an economic development mission arranged by the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA).
“Government officials I met with during our two days in Zhengzhou repeatedly expressed their excitement about formalizing a commercial relationship and developing a cultural exchange with Arkansas,” Halter said. “I am pleased to return with a document that reflects their interest and enthusiasm. This is an exciting opportunity for Arkansas, especially our farmers and businesses.”
The letter of intent establishing a “friendly-exchange relationship” between Henan Province and the state of Arkansas reads, in part:
“The two sides will carry out, based on principles of equality and mutual benefit, exchanges and cooperation of various forms in the fields of economy, trade, science and technology, culture, education, sports, health and qualified personnel … to promote common development.
“Regular contacts shall be maintained between the leaders of both governments and relevant departments of both sides to facilitate consultations on the issues of exchanges and cooperation as well as matters of common concern.”
China is Arkansas’ third-largest export market, behind Canada and Mexico. Currently, China effectively bans imports of U.S. rice and Arkansas-based poultry. Halter encouraged Chinese removal of these trade restrictions last week in discussions with China’s vice minister of foreign affairs, the assistant minister of commerce and Henan Province Party Secretary Xu Guangchun.
“Secretary Xu expressed great enthusiasm about deepening business relationships with Arkansas,” Halter said.
Located in east-central China, Henan is China’s largest province by population, with 100 million residents. If Henan were a country, it would be the world’s 12th largest behind Mexico.
Henan has long been a political, economic and cultural base in China as well as the pivot point of transportation in all directions for a country of more than 1.3 billion people. Historically, more than 20 dynasties initially established or later moved their capitals to Henan Province. Of China's 8 major ancient capitals, 4 are located there. The province also is home Shaolin Temple, a 5th century Buddhist monastery best known to the Western world for its association with Chinese martial arts, including Shaolin Kung Fu.
Signs of Henan’s vigorous economy are evident in its capital of Zhengzhou, where ongoing construction of modern buildings and new roads, is giving this city of 7.5 million people a virtual facelift.
“The amount of new construction in Zhengzhou is tremendous,” Halter said of what he witnessed during his visit. “With $2 billion in additional construction planned over the next two years, they are, in essence, building a new city next to the old one.”
Early during the China trip, Halter met with representatives of Yuan Associates, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s consulting firm in Beijing, which asked for his assistance in expanding market opportunities for Arkansas products in the world’s largest consumer market and strengthening Arkansas’ ties with China.
“While there are terrific market opportunities for Arkansas products, there are two markets that are closed to Arkansas exports currently,” Halter said. “The first is poultry products produced in Arkansas, which are currently banned in the Chinese market due to a concern about avian flu; the second product that is not imported into China from Arkansas is Arkansas-produced rice.”
Halter also visited a Wal-Mart Supercenter in China’s capital city as well as commercial and cultural sites in and around Beijing and Zhengzhou