Chinese trade officials tour Miss., looking to spend millions on cotton

Published 6:53 pm Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gov. Haley Barbour met Monday with a delegation of high-ranking Chinese trade officials who are in the United States to purchase billions of dollars in goods ranging from cotton to aircraft.

China plans to spend as much as $500 million on cotton, one of Mississippi’s top agricultural exports, said Meredith Allen, vice president of marketing for Greenwood-based Staple Cotton Cooperative Association.

Staple Cotton, which sometimes appears as Staplcotn, is the largest cotton marketing cooperative in the U.S., representing more than 21,000 farm accounts and dealing in some 4 million bales annually, according to its Web site.

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The Chinese delegation “will be signing a contract with the entire cotton industry in Memphis on Friday,” Allen said. “They are a subgroup of a very large delegation that is traveling the U.S. and they are here purchasing $11 billion worth of products.”

Wang Shen Yang, chairman of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Textiles, said 8 percent of China’s cotton imports come from Mississippi, one of largest producers of the crop in this country.

Yang said through a translator that he hopes his trip here leads to even more business “to promote and serve the interest of both countries.”

Yang confirmed that part of the delegation is also looking to purchase aircraft, automobiles, machinery, forestry and agricultural products, but he did not provide specific details or say what companies are involved in the negotiations.

Barbour told the group that he expects trade between Mississippi and China to continue to grow in the coming years, adding that China is a major buyer of furniture, agriculture products and other goods.

“As China becomes a larger and larger purchaser of products from our state, including automobiles, electronic equipment and component electronics that you use in manufacturing, we are pleased that you are here to enlarge the amount of shopping that China does in the state of Mississippi,” Barbour said.

Manufactured exports sent directly from Mississippi to China more than doubled in recent years to some $267 million in 2006, said John Henry Jackson, the Asia Pacific Trade Manager for the Mississippi Development Authority. China spent $58.73 million on Mississippi cotton in 2006 alone, Henry said.

The Chinese delegation planned Monday to tour the state Capitol in Jackson and a cotton farm in the fertile Mississippi Delta, where the bulk of the state’s cotton producers are located. Officials said the Chinese would be treated to a barbecue lunch, a meal as traditional to the Southern diet as cotton is to the flat Delta farm lands.