Bringing the Economy Home

Gov. Otter Travels To China To Sell Idaho Products

Michael*Choi / Flickr

Gov. Otter and Idaho business leaders leave for China on April 14.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter is heading to China this weekend to lead an eight-day trade mission.

The governor will travel to Shanghai, Chengdu and Beijing.  His itinerary so far is vague, including only brief descriptions of daily activities.  For example:

“Daily itinerary filled with company and government meetings in Chengdu  – schedule to be confirmed”

Idaho Department of Commerce spokesperson Megan Ronk says the schedule will become more detailed closer to the trip.  “It’s a cultural thing,” Ronk says.  “They do not tend to confirm appointments [in advance].”

It’s Gov. Otter’s fourth trade-related trip to China since becoming governor.  His latest trip was back in 2010.

As the Statesman reports, the governor’s first trip to China resulted in negative backlash from Otter’s own Republican party as he and commerce officials worked to secure Chinese investments.

“There was no negative reaction — initially — when Sayer’s predecessor at Commerce, Don Dietrich, explained to the Statesman that the 2010 mission’s investment focus was based on China’s interest in establishing an economic “beachhead” in Idaho.

But when Sinomach, a Chinese national company, made two trips to the state and expressed an interest in developing a “technology zone” south of the Boise Airport, conservative bloggers and others used Dietrich’s quote to exaggerate a threat that China would take some of the state’s sovereignty.

Rumors, blogs and letters to the editor even suggested that the Chinese had designs on establishing a sovereign Chinese city on Idaho soil.

That prompted the Idaho Republican Party to pass a resolution last July urging the state to ‘cease further foreign-based corporate development of a ‘Free Trade Zone’ and approximately 60,000 acres in Idaho.'” –

Still, China is one of Idaho’s top export countries.  Census data show China buys about 7 percent of Idaho’s exports, worth nearly $400 million in 2011.  That puts China fifth behind Canada, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea.  Governor Otter will accompany 15 Idaho companies to  promote the sale of local goods and services.


According to the Idaho Department of Commerce, these are Idaho’s top exports to China:

  1. Computer and Electronic Products: 81.77%
  2. Agricultural Products: 10.54%
  3. Paper: 2.44%
  4. Food Manufacturers: 1.9%
  5. Wood and wood products: 0.62%
  6. All Others: 2.73%

Editors Note: We originally reported this is Gov. Otter’s second trip to China.  This will actually be his fourth trade-related mission to Asia/China as governor.  He led trade missions there in 2007, 2008 and 2010.


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