SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger may be headed for China and Japan later this year as part of a campaign to use his celebrity to market California and promote international trade.
The Asia trip -- to last at least a week -- would follow a shorter trip to Mexico being considered for this summer. Over a three-day span earlier this month, the governor visited Israel, Jordan and Germany.
"The governor has said he intends to sell California to the world," said Rob Stutzman, Schwarzenegger's communications chief. "He just made one foreign trip and we're continuing to plan others. Certainly the Pacific Rim is an obvious destination."
Plans for the trip have not been finalized, he said.
China is increasingly important to California's economy. In the first three months of this year, the state exported $1.8 billion in goods to mainland China, up from $1.1 billion in the same period last year, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
Overall in 2003, California exported $5.5 billion in goods to China, a sum exceeded only by Mexico, Japan and Canada. Products being sold to China include computers, airplanes, waste paper and chemicals.
"China is certainly growing in importance as a trading partner and I would expect it only to continue growing as China's economy does," said Jon Haveman research fellow at the policy institute.
"In the long term, it [China] is very significant and important to the state."
Schwarzenegger's Asia trip would be designed as a trade mission. Accompanying him would be an entourage of state legislators, business leaders and possibly mayors.
The governor has traveled to China at least twice as a private citizen, promoting the Special Olympics, among other projects.
Whether such missions actually yield new business for the state is the subject of dispute.
"Certainly it's good PR for him, which translates into good PR for the state," said Steve Maviglio, spokesman for former Gov. Gray Davis. "And if he's going to be California's ambassador and bring home the bacon, then it pays off.
"Most of these deals take years to develop. It just takes a while for all that to translate into jobs and a boost for the economy."