Reopening of state trade office in Israel proposed

Los Angeles Daily News, CA
April 30 2004

Reopening of state trade office in Israel proposed
By Harrison Sheppard
Sacramento Bureau

As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger visits Israel this weekend, back on the
home front Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Granada Hills, is pushing for
California to reopen its trade office in that country.

The office was closed, along with 10 in other countries, during last
year’s budget crunch. Richman argued the Israel office cost very
little compared with the trade it generated.

“The Israeli trade office has been in place for more than a decade
now and in fact it has provided a large amount of trade opportunities
for companies in the state of California and has generated a lot of
jobs,” said Richman.

Opened in 1993, the office cost about $64,000 a year to maintain on a
contract basis with a private firm and also got involved with trade
to other Middle Eastern countries. The state closed its foreign trade
offices last fall in six Asian countries, Mexico, Europe and South

California imported more than $1.1 billion of goods from Israel last
year and exported $320 million in goods, with the bulk of that trade
coming through the Los Angeles area, according to the Los Angeles
Economic Development Corp.

Still, that is a relatively small amount compared with the trade
California did with the larger Asian nations, noted LAEDC economist
Jack Kyser.

“It sounds good to open the office in Israel, but if you’re going to
start opening the offices, wouldn’t you want to go to countries where
we have bigger potential?” Kyser asked. “You’d have to say, OK, the
largest source of exports out of the L.A. district is Japan. No. 2 is
China. No. 3 is South Korea. (Israel) is quite a ways down.”

Schwarzenegger is visiting Israel this weekend to attend the
groundbreaking for a new Simon Wiesenthal Center museum — a
commitment he made long before he ran for governor — and to look for
new business opportunities for California companies. He is expected
to meet with leaders in the Israeli government, including Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon.

On his way back, he will also stop at the Ramstein Air Base, a U.S.
military facility in Germany, to visit California troops.

A Schwarzenegger spokesman said the governor has not taken a position
on Richman’s bill but will be looking to expand trade opportunities
for California while he is in Israel.

The administration is also working on a separate bill, SB1665 by Sen.
Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Temecula, that would encourage the
establishment of trade and investment offices in other countries. The
bill does not name the countries, other than Armenia.

A spokesman for the Israeli government welcomed the effort to bolster
ties between Israel and California.

“If we put our two heads together, I think we can achieve great
things, and this is a step in that direction,” spokesman Daniel
Seaman said, adding that it could “benefit both the people of the
state of California and the people of the state of Israel.” Daily
News correspondent Erik N. Nelson in Tel Aviv contributed to this