File Photo: A student walks out of a restaurant of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in Shanghai, east China, Oct. 31, 2011. (Xinhua/Niu Yixin)
WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- The China International Import Expo to be held in Shanghai would be a great time to build economic bridges with China, a U.S. trade official told Xinhua in a recent interview before his visit to the expo.
Vivek Sarin, the executive officer of the Kentucky Cabinet of Economic Development, is joining a government delegation to attend the import expo with the hope of promoting Kentucky goods and services, and to explore further cooperation.
"It is our job to build those bridges, and in order for those economic bridges to be built, we need to first build relationships. And that's the main purposes of this trip," Sarin said. "We felt like this expo would be a great time for us to make the trip and maximize the opportunity."
Sarin said the Kentucky government signed up to attend the expo in late spring, after which the state's governor, Matt Bevin, decided to lead the delegation, making him the only U.S. state governor and one of the highest level U.S. officials to attend the expo.
Sarin noted that this would be the first Kentucky business delegation to China since its governor was elected three years ago, and they were eager to share with Chinese consumers what his state has to offer.
Sarin was aware that the Kentucky-based Kentucky Fried Chicken, the first western fast food chain that opened in China, has always been closely associated with the state by Chinese consumers, and in recent years the gaining popularity of Bourbon Whisky, exclusively produced in the state, has been added to the state's popular image.
"We hope that we will have the opportunity to tell the greater story of Kentucky," Sarin said, adding that his delegation would be promoting the state's aerospace, automotive, lumber, pharmaceuticals and rubber industries, which he said were also competitive.
"While we're really thankful for the food and beverage sector in our economy, we actually are so much stronger in other sectors," Sarin said.
Sarin acknowledged the current trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, saying he believes that local level commerce ties can be a "bright spot" in bilateral trade relationships.
"We are long term thinkers, there's no better time than the present to invest our relationship with China and laying the groundwork for the prosperous future," Sarin said in an upbeat tone.
To boost local level ties, the delegation will be traveling to the Chinese cities of Chongqing, Qingdao and Beijing after Shanghai to expand its connections with local government and businesses, Sarin said.
Figures from the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development show that there are eight Chinese companies with facilities in Kentucky that hire a total of 8,700 employees. In 2017, Kentucky imported about 8.1 billion U.S. dollars worth of goods and services from China, exporting 2.8 billion.
Sarin believes the level of cooperation still has "tremendous room for much growth," pointing out that Kentucky only exported 1.76 billion dollars of goods and services to China in 2016.
"There's going to be a tremendous opportunity for more companies in China to invest in Kentucky as they look to grow and expand, and get closer to American consumers," Sarin said, underscoring that the state's expanded logistic network makes it a competitive investment destination.