Ambassador Brzezinski, Governor Dayton, Foreign Minister Bildt and Mrs. Natalia Brzezinski. Photo credit: Brzezinski Blog
This post was originally published by Swedish Ambassador Mark Brzezinski on Brzezinski Blog on June 17, 2013.
This week we had the privilege of welcoming Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and a trade delegation of Minnesota business, universities and scientific and medical institutions to Stockholm, Sweden. Among the fifty states, Minnesota boasts the highest number of Swedish Americans (almost 500,000). The family ties, business relationships, scientific and university exchanges, and cultural linkages between Minnesota and Sweden combine to create a strong and growing connection. The Governor’s visit gave us the chance to frame some of the key opportunities Minnesota and Sweden have to work together to advance common interests. The values shared between Sweden and Minnesota are so many: a commitment to cultivating the next generation through great education; the endless possibilities provided by scientific innovation, R&D and global commerce; a love for the great outdoors and a shared Northern topography; and even Ice Hockey – Governor Dayton is a former Division I Hockey player (a goalie), and Sweden just won the Ice Hockey World Championships!
The very first event we held for the Governor was a Diversity Dialogue with the Somali community in Sweden, and we had a mix of people around the table from a variety of fields. The U.S. Embassy has started a new initiative we call “Diversity Dialogues,” which are an opportunity for us to gather Americans and Swedes to discuss issues related to diversity in both our countries. Last October, when I travelled with the Swedish King and Queen to Minnesota, I broke off from the delegation to meet with representatives from the American Refugee Committee and the “I am a star” program – a Minnesota-based community project that highlights Somali-American contributions. This time the Somali community in Sweden, as well as NGO’s and government officials interested in their welfare, had the opportunity to hear from the Governor of the U.S. state with the most Somali-Americans and to hear about Minnesota’s experience with assimilation of the Somali community. The Governor’s incredibly thoughtful perspective on what has worked and what still needs work in Minnesota was really embraced by the participants in our Diversity Dialogue, and he was able to place his perspective in a context of Minnesota’s 150-year plus tradition of welcoming immigrants. The Diversity Dialogue was followed by a large reception, where many representatives of Swedish government, business, NGO’s, and academia met the Governor and the Minnesota delegation. We were deeply honored that Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Swedish State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Frank Belfrage, and the next Swedish Ambassador to Washington Bjorn Lyrvall attended, demonstrating the significance they place on the Minnesota – Sweden relationship.
Minnesota’s relationship with China dates back to the 1870s, when the first Chinese immigrants traveled to the state. Over the decades, the bond between China and Minnesota has grown significantly and today Minnesota enjoys many sister-province and sister-city relationships, academic partnerships, business relationships, and cultural and humanitarian ties. On Friday, Governor Dayton’s delegation will travel to our sister state, the Province of Shaanxi, home of the famous terra cotta warriors, to meet with Governor Zhao and other Shaanxi Province officials and participate in a banquet for the delegation and celebrate the bond that has grown between our states.
So, how did this great sister relationship begin? Between 1979 and 1981, a dedicated group of US China Peoples Friendship Association Minnesota (USCPFA-MN) volunteers, spent countless hours to make this dream a reality. Volunteers initially proposed the idea for a sister relationship to USCPFA-MN Chapter President, Fred Ptashne, who enthusiastically approved the idea. This was followed by an official trip to Shaanxi by a Minnesota delegation to meet with Vice Governor, LI Lian Bi to discuss details about creating the sister relationship. Minnesota Governor AlQuie and Shaanxi Governor Yu Mingtao formally signed the sister-province agreement at a ceremony in St. Paul, Minnesota. October 19, 2012, will officially mark the 30th Anniversary of our Sister-province relationship.
Having established themselves as a household name for many middle class Americans, Best Buy is now expanding its market in China, particularly through its subsidiary company Five Star.
Best Buy believes that Five Star can make China its largest overseas market, rivaling even their U.S. operations. FiveStar currently consists of roughly 200 stores, but plans to add 50 new stores this year and up to 500 more stores by 2016, to market to the growing Chinese middle class. Best Buy is hoping to prosper from this growth, and participating in the Governor’s Trade Mission will be key to their success. On the trip, Governor Dayton has had the opportunity to meet Nicholas Wang, Five Star’s Chief Executive, whose rolein the relationship between China and Best Buy will be expanding in the years to come as Best Buy begins to focus their Chinese efforts exclusively on building the Five Star brand.
This new market investment has been a trial and error process for Best Buy. In 2001, only 3% of the Chinese population fit the middle class definition, whereas, in 2012, 18.2% are now considered middle class, with this expansion expected to continue. Additionally, Best Buy has faced challenges in determining Chinese priorities and realizing the differences that exist between American and Chinese consumer goods.
Read more about the Governor's trade mission here: http://mn.gov/governor/blog/the-office-of-the-governor-blog-entry-detail.jsp?id=102-42432
On his current trade mission to China, Governor Dayton is pleased to have two of Minnesota’s finest biomedical companies, 3M and Medtronic, joining him in as members of the delegation. In addition to fostering Minnesota’s trade relationship with China, this trip is a confirmation of Minnesota’s commitment to the exchange of both ideas and information as China and the United States move forward through the 21st century. There is perhaps no better symbol of that commitment than the biomedical field, a field which has unmatched potential to improve the lives of humans all across the earth.
In addition to embodying Minnesota’s spirit of shared progress, both 3M and Medtronic foster strong relationships with China. 3M has had a rubber and adhesives branch in China since 1984—3M China Ltd.—which has its headquarters located in Shanghai. 3M also has eight manufacturing sites and 26 business locations throughout China, and the company has invested over $750 million into the nation as of 2010. You can learn more about 3M’s work in China here.
Since over 60% of all management personnel in 3M are local, the Chinese branches employ primarily Chinese workers. And 3M’s relationship with China is mutually beneficial: according to 3M, the company’s presence in China has been crucial to the company’s overall profits.
Atmosphere Recovery Inc.
Ronald Rich isn’t exactly a novice when it comes to traveling in China.
The president and founder of Eden Prairie-based Atmosphere Recovery Inc. has been to the country four times – taking his most recent trip in March – and is already successfully selling some of his company’s products there.
But China is a huge market, and he is hoping that participating in the Governor’s 2012 Mission to China will open even more doors, particularly with government officials and industry leaders specializing in the renewable energy sector.
“I might learn some things on this trip that I didn’t know before,” says Rich. “By traveling with the governor, I’m hoping that it will help us get some introductions to people.”
Atmosphere Recovery, which Rich launched in December 1994, makes advanced gas analyzers that enable companies to reduce their energy usage and production costs. The analyzers help to monitor the complex mixtures of gases involved in making products, particularly in the steel, oil and gas, pharmaceutical and petrochemical sectors.
Minnesota’s Largest Market for Agricultural Products
China is the state’s top market for agricultural commodities and related food products. In 2010, China purchased $1.35 billion in Minnesota agricultural products, accounting for 27 percent of the state’s total agricultural exports, which include bulk and intermediate agricultural commodities as well as processed food.
China was the top buyer and the main market for Minnesota soybeans and related products. Those exports to China were valued at $1.2 billion in 2010 and represented 58 percent of Minnesota’s total exports of soybeans and related products.
Between 2009 and 2010, Minnesota’s total agricultural exports rose 8.1 percent, while the state’s agricultural exports to China increased 49 percent. Over the past decade, Minnesota agricultural exports to China jumped 800 percent, with most growth driven by exports of bulk and intermediate agricultural commodities.
Minnesota exported about $5 billion in agricultural products in 2010 (fiscal year, latest available) and was the sixth-largest agricultural exporting state in the nation. Minnesota was also the third-largest state exporter of soybeans.
(Source: Minnesota Department of Agriculture)