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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Outcome of U.S.-China Governors Forum

Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs 

Washington, DC
July 19, 2011

3:30 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Foreign Press Center. It’s good to see familiar faces again. I just ask that if you have cell phones please turn them off or on silent at this time. And as a reminder, when it’s your turn to ask questions, please just state your name and your media organization.

Without further ado, I will turn the briefing over to Special Representative Reta Jo Lewis.

MS. LEWIS: Good afternoon, and thank you so much. It is indeed a pleasure to be able to be here to brief you all on the exciting events of last week’s historic launch of the U.S.-China Governors Forum that took place in Salt Lake City, Utah. I would like to first thank our co-conveners, the National Governors Association and the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, who convened – who co-convened the event last week. This subnational cooperation was also supported by President Obama, Chinese President Hu, Secretary Clinton, and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang, through letters they wrote to welcome the forum participants as well as their continued to dedication to enhancing and strengthening the U.S.-China Subnational Dialogue.

The United States and China have been cooperating at the subnational level now for over 10 years. In 2010 alone, there were at least eight governors who led trade delegations to China and more than a hundred visits by various Chinese provincial leaders who came to the United States. And in 2011 alone, we’ve seen a number of governors and states on both sides have all visited both China and the United States. U.S. and Chinese state and local governments have established numerous cooperative relationships, including 36 sister city province and states, 161 pairs of sister city, and many university exchange programs and equal partnerships on energy and environmental cooperation.

The inaugural event last week of the U.S.-China Governors Forum, we believe was historic moment for our governors. The forum strengthened mutual understanding, greater cooperation and opportunities for greater trade and investment on both sides of the Pacific. Launching the U.S.-China Governors Forum required broad cooperation from throughout the Department of State and throughout our U.S. agencies. Within the Department, I was very pleased to work with our Embassy in Beijing, our Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, our Bureau of Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs, and many interagency participants, including the Department of Commerce and the White House.

The U.S. delegation to the forum was led by Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire, and the Chinese delegation was led by Zhejiang Party Secretary Zhao. Additional participants at the actual forum was over 20 U.S. governors from across the U.S. and three Chinese governors from Yunnan, Qinghai, and Anhui. During the forum, four U.S. governors – Washington Governor Gregoire, Puerto Rican Governor Fortuno, Iowa Governor Branstad, and Delaware Governor Markell. And the four Chinese provincial leaders took turns discussing trade and investment, energy, the environment, and education issues. In addition, over 20 MOUs and other agreements were signed, one of which agreed to – was a reciprocal visit of U.S. governors this year to China, later this year in the fall, as well as the formal eco-partnership between Utah and Qinghai between Governor Herbert and the Qinghai – governor from Qinghai, Luo, which was witnessed earlier this year by Secretary Clinton and Vice Chairman Xie from the National Development and Reform Commission of China, where they, during the third round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, witnessed the signing of a number of EcoPartnerships.

In addition to the actual forum, governors from 15 U.S. states and territories held one-on-one meetings with the Chinese provincial leaders. Together, these meetings and agreements broadened and deepened the U.S.-Chinese bilateral relationship and cooperation at the sub-national level and will lead, we believe, to the creation of more American exports and jobs through greater trade and investment. The goal of the forum was to foster direct interaction between state and provincial leaders, to promote economic growth and prosperity at the subnational level.

This forum has been an excellent platform for exchange and learning. We hope to see similar forums being added to strategic dialogues between the United States and friends in the coming years. Indeed, I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Department of State and throughout our agencies on reciprocal visits of U.S. governors to China. And I appreciate all of you attending today’s briefing.

And with that, I think we’ll open for questions.

MODERATOR: Okay. First question?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MODERATOR: Please wait for the microphone.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Bingru Wang. I’m with Phoenix TV. Could you talk about specifically what benefits the Chinese delegation have brought or will bring to the U.S.? And I have a additional question. As the election is coming next year, are you concerned that anti-China sentiment will harm the results you gained during this forum? Thank you.

MS. LEWIS: Thank you. Some of the specific outcomes that we saw coming out of this week, there were numerous private sector agreements that were signed and, of course, the Chinese Embassy has the final list of that. However, we saw Utah Governor Herbert signing a memorandum of understanding with a Chinese governor from Qinghai, Governor Luo, agreeing to work together on trade, environment, education, and energy issues. Specifically, the President of Utah Valley University and Qinghai Normal University signed an MOU at encouraging technological, industrial, and educational cooperation. We think that based on that agreement, it’s going to lead to more student and faculty exchanges between the two universities.

In addition, during the one-on-one meetings with the U.S. governors and the Chinese, many of the – most of the conversation centered around opportunities not only in trade and investment but also on green technology and environmental protection. There was an MOU that was signed between the State of North Carolina and Zhejiang province. There was also a MOU signed regarding exchanges between Zhejiang province and the State of Delaware. Zhejiang province also signed an agreement for its small and medium-sized enterprises to work with the Department of International Trade and Development of Delaware to further explore more business opportunities in the United States. And so that’s an example of the types of agreements that were being signed between the different provincial leaders.

As to your second part of your question, all of the conversations that took place, whether it was in the forum or even in the one-on-one meetings and even in the private exchanges, all centered around both leaders from China as well as here in the U.S. gaining the opportunity to interact directly with each other. It was an opportunity for them to learn about each other’s province and each other’s state. It was an opportunity for them to understand how they could mutually work together. It was an opportunity for them to invite – the Chinese invited the U.S. governors to visit their particular province, the U.S. governors invited the Chinese to, of course, visit their state if they were not this time. Also, at the end of the session on Sunday and – Saturday and Sunday after the meeting, the Chinese leaders were all leaving Utah to go out to the U.S. states, several of the governors of which they met. I know that they will be visiting the state here – they will be in Maryland visiting Governor O’Malley. They’re going to also be going to Texas, New Jersey, and Indiana.

MODERATOR: Okay. Second question, back.

QUESTION: Hi. Good afternoon. This is Yingzi Tan with China Daily. And we know that it’s the first forum for both sides. So what can be improved next time? Because some governors said this time they had four topics, like too broad to have like a deep discussion about that. So what do you suggest so that next time we can do better?

MS. LEWIS: Part of this, I think, was also a learning opportunity, but this was the first time in a very structured and disciplined and systematic way where we saw our U.S. governors and the Chinese provincial leaders coming together to talk about issues of mutual concern. And so of course, people would love to have had a lot more time in the actual forum, I think the opportunity to have more time for question and answer so that the governors can talk to each other. That was something that they all discussed.

But I do believe – and of course, in the one-on-one meetings, because we did have four governors and four provincial leaders, the party secretary, and three governors and so many U.S. leaders all attempting to meet – it was also being done around the NGA’s formal summer meeting. And the formal meeting of the governors, we were so delighted that the NGA and Governor Gregoire allowed this great opportunity to – an exchange to happen and co-convene with Madam Li from the Friendship Association because the meeting is really about their domestic issues. And so we were really delighted that both leaders from China and the U.S., as we see it, always have not only faced similar challenges, but they also have similar opportunities.

And so issues that are there when you’re talking about trade and investment, when you’re talking about job creation, those were issues that were always, of course, on the front burner of the U.S. governors in their own meeting. And when they got into the forum and when they got into their one-on-one meetings, that exchange also took place. So we believe it was a rich dialogue, that there was numerous opportunities from the very, very beginning when Utah State itself hosted its own trade and investment showcase where it allowed the Chinese leaders to participate along with the party secretary and the governors. And then as it rolled into the U.S. National Governors Association formal meeting, it just gave them a continued opportunity not only formally but also in interactions on levels where the NGA as well as Utah State and the governor hosted luncheons and dinners. And so there was a great deal of interaction between the leaders throughout the entire time that they were in Utah.

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Fengfeng Wang. I’m from Xinhua News Agency. Ms. Lewis, we noticed that during this forum President Obama met with the Dalai Lama. I just want to ask you, are you concerned that the relations on the national level will affect this sub-national mechanism, or are you optimistic this is something we can fall back on if the national level things cool down?

MS. LEWIS: While we were out in Utah, it was an excellent opportunity to be totally surrounded by state and local provincial leaders who really had on their minds the opportunity to develop relationships with each other. And so yes, we understand that while we were there, that the Chinese foreign ministry stated its opposition to the meeting that took place and made their diplomatic protests to this effect.

But I think, as you’ve seen, the President and the Dalai Lama continue to stress the importance they attach to building a U.S.-China cooperative partnership. And so for, I would think, any other specific questions about that particular meeting, I’d like to refer you to the White House.

MODERATOR: Okay. Other questions? Okay. If we don’t have any other questions, we will break there. Thank you very much.

MS. LEWIS: Thank you so much.

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