Maryland Governor’s First Trade Mission to Asia Expands Trade and Educational Opportunities

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by Sarah Wang
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and his wife Yumi enjoy a ride on Japan’s maglev train, which can reach speeds of 314 miles per hour. Image: Flickr user Maryland GovPics

On his first trade mission to Asia as governor, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan visited South Korea, China, and Japan from May 26th to June 6th. Accompanying him were representatives from Maryland businesses and the University of Maryland, as well as his wife Yumi Hogan, the first ever Asian American first lady in Maryland and first Korean American first lady of any state.

Governor Hogan centered his trip on East Asia due to the large representation of those three countries in Maryland. In 2014, Maryland exported $191 million worth of goods to South Korea. To date, 10 Korean companies are based in Maryland and 25 Maryland companies have set up shop in South Korea. Looking to expand trade between Maryland and South Korea even further, Governor Hogan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with South Korea’s Small and Medium Business Administration. He also visited two Korean provinces, South Jeolla Province, known for its marine biotechnology and ship building, and Gyeonggi Province, which hosts many major Korean companies, including the global headquarters of Samsung.

Expanding educational exchange opportunities between Asia and Maryland was a central feature of Governor Hogan’s trip to Asia as well. In South Korea, he received an honorary doctorate in political science from Hanyang University and signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) between Hanyang and the University of Maryland. Similarly, while in China, Governor Hogan signed an MOU between the University of Maryland and the headquarters of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), China’s top science and technology research organization. The University of Maryland and CAS have periodaically collaborated since 1980, and the new MOU sought to build on a solid foundation of joint research activities and exchanges.

Maryland and China also have a long history of cooperation in trade. In 1996, Maryland became the first US state to open a trade and investment office in China. Since then, China has become Maryland’s third-largest export market, buying over $714 million worth of goods from Maryland in 2014. While in China, Governor Hogan attended the opening of a new Under Armour store in China, one of the 50 Maryland-headquartered businesses that have operations in China. Of Under Armour’s 71 worldwide retail locations, China alone has 50 stores.

Japan, like China, has a strong trade relationship with Maryland. Maryland is home to 40 Japanese owned-companies, and Japan is the state’s tenth-largest export market, with exports valued at $440 million in 2014. One Japanese company based in Maryland, Shimadzu Corp., announced during Governor Hogan’s visit that it would be building a new Innovation Center at its headquarters in Columbia, Maryland. Over the next 5 years it will create 25 additional jobs, adding to a 200-strong workforce that has grown since Shimadzu first set up shop in Maryland in 1975.

During a productive meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Governor Hogan signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Japanese government to focus on two large-scale projects: liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports at Cove Point in Calvert County and the building of a magnetic levitation (maglev) train between Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC.

Cove Point, a facility operated by the Dominion energy company, is at the center of a new 20 year agreement to produce LNG for Asian consumers, including Japanese energy companies Sumimoto Corp., Tokyo Gas Co., and Kansai Electric Power Co. Japanese companies Marubeni Corp. and Toyota Tsusho have also partnered with Maryland’s Competitive Power Ventures to build an LNG electric power facility in Waldorf, Maryland that will power over 650,000 homes.

The potential partnership with Japan to build a maglev train between Baltimore and Washington would have huge implications for the future of transportation in the Maryland-DC area. Governor Hogan had the opportunity to ride Japan’s own maglev train during his stay in Tokyo, which can reach up to 314 miles per hour. Such a train would reduce the commute between Baltimore and DC to only 15 minutes.

Since returning from his trip, Governor Hogan encouraged his administration to apply for $27.8 million in funding from the Federal Railroad Administration to conduct a maglev study. To build a maglev train would cost upwards of $10 billion. Japan has offered to provide a $5 billion loan towards that bill. The maglev would also be twice as costly as the proposed new Purple Line and extension of the Red Line in the DC-Maryland-Virginia Metro transit network, projects that Governor Hogan has deemed too expensive and is expected to rule on in the next few weeks.

Sarah Wang is the Event Coordinator and a Project Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington.