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State tab for Asia trip: $213K and climbing

The bill for Gov. Martin O’Malley’s trade mission to Asia is at least $213,000 and will rise as other arms of state government tally their receipts.

Figures released Friday by the governor’s office show the Department of Business and Economic Development spent $144,000 to send O’Malley and four other state employees on the 10-day trip through China, South Korea and Vietnam.

That figure includes meals, travel and hotel rooms for those five people, plus and banquets and other events attended by the delegation.

The University of Maryland, College Park, spent $49,279 for seven employees led by President Wallace D. Loh to make the trip. That total comprises $21,906 in state funds and $27,373 from other sources, including the University of Maryland College Park Foundation and tuition revenue from the university’s programs in China.

The governor’s Maryland State Police bodyguards made the trip for $19,868, according to MSP spokesman Greg Shipley. He declined to reveal how many troopers accompanied O’Malley on the mission.

Towson University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and the secretary of state’s office have not released cost figures for trip.

Two state delegates, Veterans Affairs Secretary Edward Chow Jr., University System of Maryland Regent John Young and Maryland Higher Education Commissioner Chung Pak paid their own way, as did the business executives in the 68-member delegation.

Republican lawmakers have sniped at O’Malley over the cost of the trip in the press and in a letter sent to the governor and DBED Secretary Christian Johansson, who was part of the delegation.

“With Maryland’s plummeting business rankings and high tax environment, we know convincing corporations to locate here is not an easy task. We hope this trip proves to be a fruitful one for the citizens of Maryland,” wrote House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, Calvert and St. Mary’s, and No. 2 House Republican Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, of the Middle Shore.

O’Malley and others who made the touted the benefits of the trip, including $85 million in deals inked with Asian businesses and the international relationships forged and renewed.

“We’ve got a definite partnership that we have a possibility to develop there” in South Korea, said Mike Violette, president of Washington Labs Ltd., an electronics testing firm in Gaithersburg. “There was some freshly plowed ground, but the trip certainly helped catalyze it.”

Airfare for O’Malley, Johansson and three staffers cost $37,265, while meals and incidental expenses totaled another $5,710.

Business and economic development costs were the highest in China, where the delegation spent five days and $63,280 on a reception for 300 people in Shanghai, a luncheon for 40 in Anhui province, transportation, meeting rooms and other expenses.

Four days in Korea included $22,395 in economic development costs, including a banquet for 200 in Seoul. While there, O’Malley met with President Lee Myung-Bak and toured a Samsung facility.

DBED spent $10,580 in one day in Vietnam for a banquet in Ninh Thuan province, transportation and photography services.

“Cultural exchange gifts,” visas, and other miscellaneous expenses cost $4,856, including $3,692 to print materials for the trip and $110 for business cards translated into Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.