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O’Malley to depart on trade mission with Md. businesses

Gov. Martin O’Malley is scheduled to jet off to Asia this morning with 68 Maryland business leaders in tow to drum up some export and investment deals for the state.

“We’re on our way to Asia for an economic development mission & I’m looking forward to representing MD!” the governor posted to his twitter feed just after 10 a.m.

The mission will spend 10 days total in three countries. China and South Korea are both major export markets for the state, and Vietnam is viewed as an up-and-comer in the region. But, some believe that governors would be better served by traveling to less exotic destinations.

Andrew J. Cassey, an assistant professor at Washington State University, said trade missions are a “pretty risk-free bet,” but said governors should stay closer to home, in places like Mexico, Canada or Germany.

“What does seem to work is going back to your best locations and drumming even more business,” Cassey said. “The best locations for governors to go on these missions are close places, and places that they have a lot of exports to anyways.”

Canada is Maryland’s No. 1 export market, with $1.6 billion in goods shipped to this country’s northern neighbor in 2010. That was good for 15 percent of the state’s exports. The Netherlands was the second-largest export market for Maryland last year and Mexico, the fifth-largest.

But current and former state officials argue strengthening ties to China, and the rest of Asia, is essential, especially now as the state slogs through a slow economic recovery.

“Yes, China is definitely an area that is growing in significance to us. So is Korea,” Business and Economic Development Secretary Christian Johansson said. “If you have the size of the markets, the number of people, the spending power they’ll have in a couple of years, we want Maryland businesses to be a part of that.”