Louisiana looks to boost its China trade
Pushing expertise in oil, chemical production and looking ahead to aviation and aerospace
Louisiana wants to parlay its strengths in oil and natural gas and chemical production into expanded trading ties with China, according to the state’s top economic development official.
Don Pierson was appointed secretary of Louisiana Economic Development when John Bel Edwards became governor in January. Pierson said the state intends to build on its traditional industries — energy and chemical production, forestry and manufacturing.
“We are also confident of embracing future opportunities in aviation and aerospace, IT and water management,” he said in an interview in New York on Tuesday.
Trade between Louisiana and China has been thriving. Since 2008, Louisiana has ranked first in the US in per capita foreign direct investment, and Chinese companies have played a large part.
China is the second-largest investor in Louisiana.
China represents Louisiana’s top export market, with more than $8.6 billion in exports in 2014, ranking Louisiana No. 4 among US states in exports to the mainland.
Pierson said there are two areas that appear to be particularly promising for expanding trade between the state and China. One is producing chemical feedstock like methanol, which is required to manufacture chemical products.
Another involves the production of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, which is created when natural gas is cooled to minus 259 degrees Fahrenheit.
In 2014, Louisiana secured an investment of $1.85 billion from Shandong Yuhuang Chemical Co to develop a methanol plant in Louisiana’s St. James Parish. The facility, which is expected to create 400 permanent jobs and about 2,000 temporary construction jobs, is under construction.
“We anticipate it will come on line and begin production in 2017,” he added.
While low oil and natural gas prices hinder the state’s energy production, the prices are a spur for the chemical business.
“The drop in oil prices has hit some areas of Louisiana hard, as we are the number two producer of oil and natural gas in the US,” said Pierson.
“But the low prices also create an opportunity, since oil and gas are the feedstock for chemical production and are also used to power the facility that manufactures the feedstock.”
China’s growing economy will require feedstock for chemical products, and Louisiana’s strategic location on the Gulf of Mexico will make it easy for Chinese firms to establish production in the states and then ship the product back to China through the state’s pipeline network or from one of its ports, said Pierson.
Louisiana’s port system is among the largest in the world, with 27 deepwater and shallow-draft ports.
Don Pierson, secretary of Louisiana Economic Development