Governator in action-packed best-selling debut
by Peter Alford
November 10, 2004 Wednesday All-round Country Edition
Arnie launches his ‘buy California’ roadshow with its biggest investor,
HE’S baaack and, as always, he’s selling something. This time it’s
the world’s sixth (or fifth, depending on whose figures you believe)
The Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, arrives in Tokyo today with
his first trade mission — 57 business people, farmers and state
officials — “to promote California as pro-business, pro-environment
There’s characteristic calculation behind even that bluff
sloganeering. Schwarzenegger hopes to persuade Toyota to build a new
Prius plant in California, arguing his state is the biggest single
US market for the eco-friendly hybrid vehicle and any high-wage
disadvantage would be offset by skills and technology resources.
No one who’s followed Schwarzenegger’s career would be remotely
surprised he’s chosen Japan to road test the “buy California” pitch
he’ll take next year to China, Mexico and possibly Australia.
Firstly, there’s Japan’s importance to his state’s economy. Japan
is the biggest foreign investor in California, owning $US30 billion
($39.5 billion) of assets, a major source of foreign tourism and the
state’s second-largest foreign market, after Mexico.
But the $US11.7 billion of exports Japan bought last year are almost
30 per cent down on the high-water mark of $US16.4 billion in 2000,
before Japan’s most recent downturn and the slump in world demand for
Californian electronics and software. Secondly, Japan loves Arnie and
he reciprocates. Schwarzenegger made a point of accompanying each
of his new movies to Tokyo, the last occasion being the release of
Terminator3: Rise of the Machines 16 months ago, when his spiel was
interrupted by questions about whether or not he was stalking then
California governor Gray Davis, predator-style.
Schwarzenegger had collided with politics in Japan even earlier,
as an unwitting terminator of justice minister Shozaburo Nakamura’s
career. Nakamura was forced out in 1999 after first allowing the actor
into the country without a passport, then allegedly souveniring the
entry papers to impress his wife and daughter.
Schwarzenegger made a lot of money in Japan and not just at the box
office. His portfolio of Japanese television ads during the 1990s
— flogging energy drinks, pay-TV, noodles and beer — set a still
unmatched benchmark for wackiness (check some at www.jap ander.com)
and earned him about $US2 million per contract, which usually involved
two or three 15-second ads in a year.
But one thing the super-salesman won’t be visiting on this trip to
Tokyo is a trade office. At least 27 US states are represented in
Tokyo — along with most Australian states — but not California.
It used to be. But in the depths of the Davis administration’s
financial crisis last year, a Democrat-led push in the state
legislature shut California’s 12 overseas offices and removed the
governor’s powers to open new ones.
Oddly enough, the same lawmakers let through a privately funded trade
office in Armenia — possibly less of a tribute to Armenia’s economic
dynamism than to the considerable influence of Armenian-American
business people on the west coast. They then refused several other
bills proposing to reopen state offices on the same basis.
The Governator is not pleased to have had his wings clipped in
this way by the Sacramento girlie-men. Particularly since Democrat
lieutenant-governor Cruz Bustamante, a remnant of the Davis regime,
exploited a legislative loophole and his position as chairman of
the California Commission for Economic Development to open de facto
offices in Taiwan and Beijing.
But it’s doubtful any shopfront Bustamante happens to open can rival
Arnie’s selling powers, and certainly not in Japan. The big fella
put it best in his first State of the State address in January: “If
I can sell tickets to my movies like Red Sonja and Last Action Hero,
you know I can sell anything.”