SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert kicked off five days of national and international gatherings here with a formal ceremony Wednesday with the governor of Utah's sister province in China, Qinghai.
Held in the Capitol's gilded Gold Room, the ceremony conducted in both English and Mandarin was witnessed by dozens of Chinese reporters and government officials, as well as representatives from the U.S. State Department.
Documents detailing the state's relationship with Qinghai were signed by both Herbert and his Chinese counterpart, Qinghai Gov. Luo Huining, and the pair exchanged gifts — a painting for Herbert and a pair of cowboy boots that drew oohs and aahs from the crowd for Luo.
Other agreements were also signed between the Chinese province and the Utah Clean Technology Alliance to encourage the development of affordable and clean energy sources, and between Utah Valley University and Qinghai Normal University. Herbert also declared a Utah-Qinhai "eco-partnership" day.
Four of China's provincial governors are in Utah this week with a delegation of some 200 journalists and staffs for both the National Governors Association meeting at the Grand America Hotel and a U.S.-China trade conference across the street at Little America Hotel.
The trade conference gets under way today, and the annual NGA meeting starts Friday. Both continue through Sunday.
In addition, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is holding a Senate Finance Committee field hearing on Medicaid reform today at the state Capitol.
"It's gonna be busy," Herbert told the Deseret News.
Because of the involvement on the Chinese governors, Herbert said the NGA's annual meeting, the first to be held in Utah since 1947, is "an historic event. From that standpoint, it's going to be key to Utah's future. There's a lot of benefits that we receive from hosting."
Bringing the event to Utah is expected to cost $1.5 million, money that's been raised privately, largely from corporations located both in Utah and elsewhere in the United States. The governors will be treated to a number of events, including a performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and a bobsled race.
Herbert called it "an opportunity for us to showcase Utah, to show what we're doing right and how we're doing it, and to share best practices with other governors." He said, "this is a significant opportunity for Utah to really shine."
His moment in the spotlight will come Saturday, when he conducts a discussion on the economy as chairman of the NGA Economic Development and Commerce Committee. That discussion, Herbert said, will focus on "jobs and jobs and more jobs."
Boosting trade with China, Herbert said, is key to boosting the economy, especially in Utah.
"One of the things we'll emphasize is the opportunity that we have now in a global marketplace," he said. "We look at China as a country that has 1.3 billion customers of products that we can manufacture in Utah and sell."
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