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California Governor Jerry Brown looks to sell China on his state

California Governor Jerry Brown gestures while addressing the audience during a summit meeting on the future of housing in California, in Oa
California Governor Jerry Brown gestures while addressing the audience during a summit meeting on the future of housing in California, in Oa

By Sharon Bernstein

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California Governor Jerry Brown said on Saturday he was aiming for a big win as he sets off for China to pitch the Golden state's wine, produce and technology and open a trade office in Shanghai.

Chinese consumers have "hundreds of billions in savings," Brown told Reuters in an interview, saying he was determined to persuade at least some of them to spend it by purchasing goods from California and investing in the state's businesses.

The foreign trade and investment office would be California's first such effort in China since 2004, when the state abruptly shut down such operations in a dozen countries.

At the time, California was deep in a budget crisis brought on by the dot-com bust of the early 2000s. Then-Governor Gray Davis closed the offices to save the state $6 million a year.

The new trade office, Brown said, would not be publicly funded.

"This one is going to be paid for privately and operated privately," he said. "It's going to be shaped by business."

Brown is bringing about 75 business leaders with him on the trip, along with numerous members of his staff and his wife, businesswoman and attorney Anne Gust Brown. He plans to make stops in a number of cities during the six-day tour, including Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

The tour is the second stage in the governor's efforts to develop commercial ties with China. Last year, Chinese leader Xi Jimping, then China's vice president and now its president, visited California. The two leaders discussed setting up a joint task force on commercial development.

Brown said he looked forward to seeing the tremendous changes that have taken place in China since the last time he visited, during his first stint as California's governor, in 1977.

"I can see Chinese manufacturing here," Brown said. "How we pull that off with all our regulations and tax issues I don't know. But I take a very individual view."

He's less interested, Brown said, of looking into concerns about conditions or other issues with factories that are actually in China. He's looking to convince the Chinese to send their money here.

"I'm not looking to find cheap factories to make goods to sell back to California - I'm looking to sell them," Brown said. "I want their surplus to go into building California goods, and I want their surplus to go into building factories and other investments in California."

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Eric Walsh)

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