Jerry Brown Re-Opens California Trade Offices In China

Surprise move reverses cost-cutting decision to shut down foreign outposts.

Jerry Brown is expanding his empire.

The governor's office announced Friday that California will establish new outposts in Beijing and Shanghai to promote trade and commerce. 

That announcement, of course, coincides with Brown's meetings this week with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Los Angeles.

"The office will encourage direct investment and further strengthen existing ties between the world's second and ninth-largest economies," Brown said in a statement.

The surprise move re-establishes a practice of operating California foreign trade offices that was abandoned nearly a decade ago.

California once had a network of a dozen offices in cities ranging from Hong Kong to London to Shanghai. 

The network was started by Governor George Deukmejian, then expanded by Governors Pete Wilson and Gray Davis.

The legislature shut them down in a budgetary move in 2003. Critics had also slammed the offices, accusing them of inefficiency and performing redundant duties.

Brown's office did not release a cost estimate for opening the Chinese offices, but did say that financing would be provided by what it termed "partners in the private sector." 

That effort will be coordinated by the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development.

Brown's office said the new offices would provide California companies with more access to investors and business owners in China. California exported more than $14 billion in goods to China last year, most of that computers and other electronics.

His office also is proposing a trade task force, quoting a report that predicts up to $2 trillion dollars will be flowing out of China in the next decade for investment purposes.

The governor will face obvious questions about whether these trade offices are needed.  But this appears to be another of those unconventional steps he's making to boost investment from the Pacific rim, at a time when California's ports are already scrambling to handle shipments from that region.

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