2nd China trade visit expected

OLYMPIA - A second trade delegation this year from China is expected to tour Thurston County early in December.

The visit is part of a relationship struck in March, when a South Sound economic development delegation visited Hong Kong, Shanghai and the Port of Yantai.

A delegation from China toured the Port of Olympia in April and left with plans to possibly send shipments from China through the Port of Olympia by the end of the year.

The port's executive director sounded hopeful about the possibility Wednesday.

"We have a possibility for some very meaningful shipments, perhaps as early as mid next year," Ed Galligan said.

Details of the visit still are being worked out, including visa clearances. The identities of the visitors are being withheld pending visa arrangements, said Josephine Jung, vice president of international programs and development at Saint Martin's University.

Representatives of up to 15 companies might be visiting, said Michael Cade, executive director of the Economic Development Council of Thurston County. Cade visited China with the South Sound trade delegation in March.

Participants in the talks tend to speak in generalities due, in part, to the fact they are competing with other Puget Sound ports for business with China.

The South Sound parties involved in the discussions warn against expecting quick results.

"This is a long process of developing a relationship and trust with them," Galligan said of the Chinese.

Prospects for Chinese investment include buying property for possible development, striking partnerships with local companies who could export to China and identifying Thurston County as a tourist destination, said Riley Moore, director of international business programs at Saint Martin's. The school has maintained an exchange program with Chinese students for the past decade.

"There's a tremendous increase in wealth in China, and that's fueling a tremendous interest in travel," Moore said. "This is just the start of saying Thurston County is a possibility you might want to explore."

Thurston County's cheaper land prices compared with King and Pierce counties could be an attraction, Moore said.

Also, the region's tribal casinos - Red Wind, Little Creek and Lucky Eagle - might be part of the itinerary, Moore said.

Hotels adjacent to Little Creek and Lucky Eagle casinos might help promote them as destinations for the Chinese delegation, Moore said.