- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley touted the results Tuesday of a 10-day economic development trip to Asia, which he said helped the state secure more than $85 million in foreign investments.

Mr. O’Malley was among 68 officials, educators and business leaders who embarked two weeks ago on trips to China, South Korea and Vietnam in an effort to strengthen business ties there.

Investments announced during the trip included a deal with Tasly Group, a leading Chinese pharmaceutical company, which will invest $40 million into building and staffing a 443,000-square-foot training and production facility in Montgomery County.

The second-term governor, a Democrat, said many Maryland businesses on the trip also were able to strengthen existing ties in the Far East and reach new agreements to provide training, consulting and other services for Asian companies.

“We sent a strong message to companies … that Maryland is a gateway to doing business in the U.S., particularly in the life sciences and high-tech industries,” Mr. O’Malley said in a statement.

More than 300 foreign-owned companies have offices in Maryland, and about 3.5 percent of the state’s jobs are with foreign-owned firms.

China was the state’s third-largest export market last year, with Maryland businesses sending $571 million in exports to the country. The state also imported $2.6 billion in Chinese goods — its second-most from any country.

House Republicans expressed concerns last week about the cost of the trip, which the state’s Department of Business and Economic Development has estimated at more than $100,000. Officials have said most attendees paid their own way, with Maryland covering only the bills for the governor and a handful of officials.

O’Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory pointed out that economic development trips by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, a Republican, cost more than $200,000, and that this trip’s economic and goodwill benefits far outweigh its costs.

“It’s just curious as to why they’re raising these issues now,” Miss Guillory said, adding that the trip’s exact cost has yet to be calculated.

“We can’t even begin to estimate the economic benefits that are going to happen.”

• David Hill can be reached at dhill@washingtontimes.com.

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