LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Rickets will lead his second trade mission to China since taking office two years ago.
The governor announced Tuesday that he, along with officials from the State Departments of Agriculture and Economic Development and others, will visit Xi'an, Shanghai and Hong Kong during the trip, Nov. 5 through 19.
Ricketts, who led a trade mission to China last year, said the return trip is important to solidify old relationships and establish new ones. China is the state's fourth-largest trading partner.
"It takes a long time to develop those relationships," the governor said. "It's just not something that's done the first time you show up. And so we need to continually go back there, let them know that these are the people you can deal with in Nebraska, that they can be trusted."
This will be the third overseas trade mission headed up by the governor. He has previously led the mission to China and Japan last year, as well as one to Europe.
The delegation plans to attend 23rd China Yangling Agricultural Hi-Tech Fair and meet with investors and business and academic officials, among others. The country's premier agricultural fair takes place in just outside of Xi'an. It will draw an estimated 1.6 million visitors.
The group will also go to Shanghai, a leading consumer market with 24 million residents, and Hong Kong, one of the largest importers of Nebraska beef. Last year, Hong Kong was the state's sixth-largest export market, accounting for $234 million in goods purchased, most of it food.
The state has a trade office with one employee in Shanghai. It was established in 2013 to help businesses make connections and work with Chinese companies.
Agriculture Department Director Greg Ibach said trade barriers remain with the country, including problems accessing beef and gaining certain approvals to accept crops grown in the United States.
"Going to China is important for agriculture because we need to continue to have those conversations, to continue to ask for the business," he said.
Past trade missions have benefited the state, Ricketts said. Developing a relationship with Kawasaki while in Japan was one of the reasons the company decided to expand operations here in Lincoln, he said.
About 50 people have expressed interest in being part of the mission's delegation, said Courtney Dentlinger, director of the Department of Economic Development. Others wanting to join may contact Cobus Block at 402-480-5806 or Stan Garbacz at 402-471-2341. Those joining the delegation must cover their own costs.