S.C. governor leading trade mission to expand portfolio

By Chuck Crumbo
crumbo@scbiznews.com
Published April 16, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Led by Gov. Nikki Haley, the state’s 10-day trade mission to India this fall will be far more than a visit to her parents’ homeland.

It will be an opportunity to formally introduce the state of South Carolina to the key trade officials and business leaders of one of the world’s fastest growing economies, said S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt.

India is one of the BRICs, an acronym referring to Brazil, Russia, India and China. The four are at a similar point in economic development and some economists predict that around mid-century they could collectively eclipse the economies of the G-7 countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the U.S.

Building relationships with the BRIC countries will be one way for the state to broaden its trade portfolio, Hitt said.

“We need to introduce ourselves to these four countries, and we need to spend some time there, and we will do that,” he said.

The S.C. contingent also will be going to a country that either has been visited or is on the to-do list of other Southeastern governors, Hitt said.

Former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley led a trade mission to India in 2010, and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory wants to lead a trade venture there, though no formal plans have been announced.

The trip is designed to introduce the state to Indian companies and develop relationships with those firms, Hitt said. The S.C. delegation will travel around India, stopping in New Delhi, Punjab, Mumbai and Chennai.

Haley’s ties to India are an advantage South Carolina’s governor has over all but one of her peers — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Haley’s parents, Ajit Singh Randhawa and Raj Kaur Randhawa, are immigrants from Amritsar District, Punjab, India.

Jindal, whose parents are Indian immigrants, has not led a trade delegation from Louisiana to India.

Haley, who was born in Bamberg County visited India when she was about 2 years old, Hitt said. “This will be a special trip for her,” he said.

Haley, whose 2010 election as governor grabbed headlines in India, is expected to attract media attention during the Nov. 12-22 visit, Hitt said.

Although the mission is planned for the week after the Nov. 4 general election, the governor will go regardless of the voting outcome, a spokeswoman for the S.C. Commerce Department said.

Haley, who took office in January 2011, has attended air shows in Paris and Farnborough, England, traveled to Frankfurt, Germany, for an auto show, led a S.C. delegation to the annual Japan-SEUS trade conference in Japan, and traveled to Canada, visiting Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

The India trip will offer the state an opportunity to recruit investment in South Carolina and also explore the possibility of growing exports.

In 2012, India ranked at the No. 16 trading partner of South Carolina and No. 16 in terms of a capital investment in the state, Hitt said.

“We think that’s an area we will be able to improve,” Hitt said, noting that since the Haley administration took office, project activity involving Indian companies has tripled.

India companies investing in the United Sates include those in the professional, scientific, technical services and banking sectors.

A handful of Indian companies have investments in the state:

  • SarlaFelx: A textile manufacturer in Colleton County that’s investing $13.8 million and creating 100 jobs.
  • Hi-Choice Inc.: A packager of private-label personal hygiene products in Clarendon County.

Reach Chuck Crumbo at 803-726-7542.

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