Washington State Enjoys Unique Relationship with China

Washington is the only U.S. state that enjoys a trade surplus with China. Renee Montagne speaks with Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) about the Chinese President's visit.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The dinner for the Chinese president at Bill and Melinda Gates' home was co-hosted by Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire. We called her this morning to find out more about the event. Hello.

Governor CHRISTINE GREGOIRE (Washington State): Hi, how are you?

MONTAGNE: Fine. Now, in a way, you're just coming from that dinner. Besides the many business executives, who else attended? What did you all talk about?

Gov. GREGOIRE: Well, for the most part, our conversation surrounded global healthcare. We also talk about education and the need for greater education exchange. So, he and I talked about a Confucius Institute in Seattle, and a Washington education institute for students and teachers in China.

MONTAGNE: Now, I gather that you met separately with the president, but before we get to the sorts of things you would have discussed, let's turn momentarily back to the dinner which we've just heard Martin Kaste say had the air of a chamber of commerce event. But, what, for instance, did you have on the menu?

Gov. GREGOIRE: Oh, well, we had beef or halibut by way of choices--fine wines produced here in Washington State. So, it was an opportunity to feature the kind of agricultural products that we have to offer, and they're one of the importers of many of our good agricultural products.

MONTAGNE: And the president himself, President Hu Jintao, was he social?

Gov. GREGOIRE: Absolutely. When he arrived at the Paine Field in Everett, Washington, everyone expected him to go immediately to his car, but there was about 800 Chinese Americans. He actually went through the crowd and shook hands and greeted all of them, and I think that's kind of an indication he's a very warm individual, very easy to chat with.

MONTAGNE: There were protests, though, in Seattle, in connection with President Hu's visit. The issue of human rights came up in those protests. Did it come up in your meetings?

Gov. GREGOIRE: There were some protests, but there was also a huge number of Chinese Americans that were present at virtually every stop we went, with Chinese and American flags out.

MONTAGNE: And just, finally, back to the broader questions of trade relationships with the United States, as we've heard, Washington State has an actual surplus. Did that question come up?

Gov. GREGOIRE: Well, we talked about the trade imbalance, but he also was very clear in my meeting with him--my private meeting--that Washington State is unique and that the trade that has gone on before will not only continue, but increase on many more sectors. One up and coming one is the environmental issues that they are facing there, and we have the technology to help them, particularly as they prepare for the 2008 Olympics.

MONTAGNE: What's on the agenda for today?

Gov. GREGOIRE: Today, we are going to take a tour of the Boeing company, and then President Hu, at a luncheon, will give a major address. My hopes are that he will address the piracy issue that many of our companies find as an experience in China, and I'm hoping that he will send a message that they're going to step up their protection of intellectual property, which will be an immense benefit to us in terms of our trade and our nation's trade with China.

MONTAGNE: Governor, thank you very much for joining us.

Gov. GREGOIRE: You bet. Thanks, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Christine Gregoire is governor of Washington State, where China's president Hu Jintao began his first visit to the United States.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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