UPDATE: Missouri reaches $4.4 billion trade agreement with China

Monday, October 24, 2011 | 12:41 p.m. CDT; updated 7:13 p.m. CDT, Monday, October 24, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said Monday the state has reached an agreement to sell $4.4 billion worth of products to China for the next three years starting in 2012.

Nixon said the deal between the state Department of Economic Development and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade emphasizes agricultural products and would boost Missouri exports to China by more than $1 billion over three years. The Democratic governor said international trade is important for improving Missouri's economy.

"Missouri businesses and farmers have and sell the products needed to feed and fuel and clothe the world," Nixon said. "Missouri truly helps keep the global economy moving forward, so we always look for opportunities to compete and win in the economy of the future, and exports are a key part of that."

The deal was announced while Nixon is visiting China. His trip comes as Missouri lawmakers remain deadlocked on a package of business incentives that included tax credits intended to help make the St. Louis airport a hub for international cargo from China and other countries. Nixon called lawmakers back to the state Capitol this fall to approve the legislation, but an agreement collapsed, and the incentives package is unlikely to pass before the special legislative session expires under the Missouri Constitution on Nov. 5.

Speaking to reporters by telephone from Beijing, Nixon said the legislation had come up during trade talks but was not the "centerpiece" of any discussions and had not inhibited the agreement. Nixon said he was scheduled to meet with Chinese aviation officials later in his trip.

Along with completing a trade agreement, Nixon said he met with China Vice Premier Wang Qishan, whose responsibilities include international trade and financial services and Chinese foreign affairs and agriculture officials. Nixon and his wife, Georganne Nixon, also met with the former Chinese ambassador to the U.S., who was hosted at the Missouri Governor's Mansion during a visit in February 2010. In addition, St. Louis-based Peabody Energy Corp. explained its operations in China.

Nixon is scheduled to meet with the U.S. ambassador to China and speak to the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing. He will also travel to Missouri's sister province of Hebei, which is in eastern China. He plans to return to Missouri on Saturday.

The governor is traveling with the directors of the Missouri Agriculture and Economic Development departments, business leaders and representatives from various agriculture commodity groups. The governor's travel costs will be paid by the Hawthorn Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that frequently funds gubernatorial trips related to economic development.

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