- Associated Press - Monday, April 7, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Gov. Nikki Haley is making a trade trip to India in November, returning for the first time since she was a toddler to the country where her parents were born.

Haley will spend about 10 days in the country, trying to get Indian companies to bring factories and jobs to the state and open up opportunities for South Carolina companies to export items to the country, South Carolina Department of Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said Monday.

The trip, which will take place after the 2014 election, will include six or seven agency staffers and employees of the governor’s office along with other private and local officials and should cost South Carolina taxpayers around $50,000, Hitt said. There currently are no plans for Haley’s husband, children or parents to join her, Hitt said.

The trip will include visits to several places in India, including the state of Punjab, where Haley’s parents were born. She has only been to India once, when she was 2.

The itinerary for these types of trips is often busy and Haley said she wasn’t sure she would get any chance to sightsee or visit relatives.

“The idea of being in the country that my parents hold dear - just the feeling of being there will be very strong for me,” said Haley, who was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa to Sikh parents who had immigrated to the United States from India in the early 1960s.

“I’m not sure we’re going to have any time,” she said. “The last words I head from Commerce is ‘this is going to be brutal.’”

Hitt also expects that the Indian media will have a great interest in Haley, who is the first woman of Indian heritage to become a governor of a U.S. state.

South Carolina officials chose India because of its potential. The country ranks 16th in capital investment in the state, despite being an emerging market with more than 1 billion people.

“India is one of the fastest growing markets in the world. It essentially has everything there,” Hitt said. “We think it is time for us to go and learn our way.”

Foreign investment had been critical to South Carolina since Michelin from France started building tires 40 years ago. The state is first in the country in foreign investment per capita and since Haley took office in 2011, foreign-based companies have provided more than one-third of the jobs and about 60 percent of the money invested in the state.

The port in Charleston, along with interstates and rail lines play an important part, Hitt said.

“The Southeast is an important place for international investment and we are an important doorway to the Southeast,” Hitt said.

Haley has already been to France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan while in office. She has a trade trip to Canada coming up later this month. Hitt said it is important for the governor to travel because other governors make overseas trips too. He pointed out North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley are heading to India this year.

“CEOs like to meet with other CEOs,” Hitt said. “Gov. Haley is CEO of our state, so it makes sense that she represents us.”

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