Foreign Relations

September 25, 2012

California Plans to Reopen International Trade Offices

Governor Brown signed legislation in September that will open some international trade offices for the State. The legislation authorizes the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development — also called GO-Biz — to work with nonprofit organizations to operate these offices, using state funds or private donations, according to a report in the San Francisco Daily Times. GO-Biz will partner with the Bay Area Council and hope raise a million dollars by the end of the year for this purpose. It is probably that a trade office in Mexico will be the next priority of this program.

At one time, California had twelve offices in various parts of the world but these were shut down in 2003 for numerous reasons: questions about their effectiveness, mismanagment and political corruption, questions, a scandle involving fabricated “success stories”, and the budget crises of the time.

Govern Brown had previously announced his intention to reopen ab outpost in Shanghai to promote trade and commerce with California. “The office will encourage direct investment and further strengthen existing ties between the world’s second and ninth-largest economies,” Brown said in statement before meeting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Los Angeles in February.

Filed under Economic Development, Foreign Relations by

January 19, 2010

Crowd chants “USA” as LA rescue team saves woman in Haiti

In a rare uplifting moments after the unspeakable tragedy and human suffering in Haiti, this video shows the Los Angeles Urban Rescue team being cheered with chants of “USA” after saving a woman from the rubble of a collapsed building.

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July 15, 2008

Iraq to open consulate in San Diego

The Los Angeles Times reports that Iraq will open a consulate in San Diego to assist Iraqis with documentation, passports, visas and other consular services.

Coming soon to California: a consulate of Iraq. To take the strain off the Iraqi embassy in Washington, D.C., and help expatriates scattered around the United States, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry plans to place consulates in Detroit and San Diego. Detroit and San Diego? “Yes, there’s quite a big community in Detroit,” Labid Abbawi, Iraqi foreign undersecretary, said. “Also we have quite a big number in San Diego as well,” Abbawi said. “There are also in Los Angeles a lot, but we thought San Diego was more suitable.” There were 3,705 Iraqis in Detroit, 2,039 in Los Angeles and 822 in San Diego, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

But there are also Iraqi communities in east San Diego County, particularly Christian Chaldeans. Many small market owners and professionals in the area are Iraqi. Some estimate that, including second generation, there are 25,000 Iraqis in the county. Those numbers are likely to increase as the U.S. State Department gears up its post-war refugee program. The Bush administration set a goal of admitting 12,000 Iraqi refugees this year.

The San Diego consulate should open before the end of the year, Abbawi said. It will assist Iraqis with documentation, passports, visas and other consular services. Americans flying from the West Coast to Iraq will also find it convenient. Now they will be able to pick up their visas in San Diego, which could be preferable to waiting a day or two in Amman, Jordan, to get the necessary papers. For now, it may be only reporters and military contractors who would care, but Abbawi thinks wider need could be coming soon. If Iraq has turned the corner on security, as Abbawi believes, tourism should follow.

“We hope the day will not be too long where you’ll be able to come and have a walk in Baghdad quite freely,” Abbawi said. “I hope this will not be long.”

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June 17, 2008

California signs MOUs with Chile

Representatives for the State of California have signed a series of Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) the Republic of Chile. In a speech before the California Assembly, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet Jeria urged stronger ties between Chile and the United States. The two countries share a respect for freedom, human rights and fair trade, she said. Speaking of Chile, she said, “We aim to take a giant step and become a developed nation in the span of one generation.”. “We have not come to ask for aid,” she told legislators. “We have come to form a partnership for development.”

According to a press release from the Governor’s office, the first MOU was signed by officials from the Republic of Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and California’s Environmental Protection Agency, Resources Agency and Department of Food and Agriculture. It is an agreement establishing a California-Chile “Partnership for the 21st Century” that is based on the desire of both parties to open collaboration between their institutions, organizations, universities, research centers, companies and citizens.

Schwarzenegger, in a prepared statement, said that Chile and California are “natural partners, given our longstanding history of educational exchange, our excellence in agriculture and our similar geography and climate.”

“President Bachelet’s visit marks a continuation of our efforts to promote collaboration through cooperative actions and initiatives focused on issues of mutual interest, including education and workforce development, environmental protection, clean energy, agriculture, information technology and trade,” Schwarzenegger said.

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April 21, 2008

Schwarzenegger to meet with Afghan governors

Governor Schwarzenegger is meeting with eight governors from Afghanistan as part of a U.S. State Department exchange program, Associated Press has reported. The governors are spending five days in California during their three-week visit to the U.S. to learn about federalism, American elections and agriculture. Schwarzenegger plans to meet briefly with the governors on Monday. He will talk about his job and how he works with local and federal officials. The Afghan leaders also were meeting with state lawmakers and agriculture and trade officials. e U.S. State Department says the governors are among hundreds of world leaders who have taken part in the International Visitor Leadership Program.

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California signs MOU with U.N. to help China curb greenhous gasses

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle. It certainly sounds like a good idea- afterall, California has spent a huge amount of time and money to reduce the smog and pollution in our major cities, only to find that we are now the recipients of Chinese pollution. It remains to be seen whether this agreement will be purely symbolic or not. I am especially curious as to how the State intends to “encourage private entities in California to support climate change projects in China”. The State of California has few effective business programs. Will these projects go mostly to business associates of of the Governor, or channeled through shadowy lobbying organizations such as the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy?

California’s top environmental official on Tuesday plans to sign an agreement with the United Nations to help China reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The memorandum of understanding drafted by the U.N. Development Programme pairs California with one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases. California produces more greenhouse gases than any other state but also has taken strides to significantly reduce its output. That includes attempts to roll back auto and factory emissions, while trying to institute an emissions-trading system for industry.

California promises to share policy ideas and research for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, according to the four-page agreement to be signed on Earth Day in Beijing. The state also would mobilize public agencies and encourage private entities in California to support climate change projects in China.

“I think it will help show them they can indeed reach set targets and move forward on environmental protection and maintain a strong economy as California has,” Linda Adams, California’s Environmental Protection Agency secretary, said…

California’s agreement with the development program, a subsidiary of the U.N. that promotes economic development, follows several years of international outreach by the state. In 2005, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an environmental agreement with the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau to help improve air quality and water quality. The agreement was amended in 2007 to further bolster California’s support of Beijing’s air quality programs.

Schwarzenegger also has entered agreements with other states and parts of Canada to implement a carbon-trading program. The governor has said those agreements will help California meet the goals of a 2006 law seeking to cut greenhouse gases roughly a quarter by 2020.

On Monday, Schwarzenegger said the state’s agreement with China recognizes that climate change requires a global solution. “America has to lead, and we are doing so with or without Washington,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “California is not waiting for the federal government to take action.”… While California is pursuing its climate change goals, state regulators and politicians are bickering over how best to implement the landmark 2006 greenhouse gas law.

Filed under China, Environment and Climate, Foreign Relations by

April 8, 2008

California shown as part of Mexico in Absolute Vodka advertisment

Absolute vodka company set off a minor controversy by showing California, Texas and much of the Western U.S.as part of Mexico in advertisements in Mexico. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle:

The campaign, which promotes ideal scenarios under the slogan “In an Absolut World,” showed a 1830s-era map when Mexico included California, Texas and other southwestern states. Mexico still resents losing that territory in the 1848 Mexican-American War and the fight for Texas independence.

But the ads, which ran only in Mexico and have since ended, were less than ideal for Americans undergoing a border buildup and embroiled in an emotional debate over illegal immigration from their southern neighbor. .. Absolut said the ad was designed for a Mexican audience and intended to recall “a time which the population of Mexico might feel was more ideal.”

“As a global company, we recognize that people in different parts of the world may lend different perspectives or interpret our ads in a different way than was intended in that market, and for that we apologize.” Vin & Sprit, Absolut’s Sweden-based parent company, will be acquired by French spirit maker Pernod Ricard SA under a deal reached last week.

Filed under Foreign Relations, Media and Entertainment, Mexico, Sweden by

March 17, 2008

Black Market in H-1B Visas has developed

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has permitted the development of a black market for H1B Visas, according to a report in World Journal. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) recently criticized the Bush Administration for not upholding H-1B work visa regulations and wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff documenting abuse of the H-1B visa program. The World Journal’s review of court documents show that there is now a black market for H-1B visas in the United States. Companies now often apply for H-1B work visas for people who don’t have legal jobs waiting for them, and then lease the H-1B visa holders out to work for other companies, which is an illegal practice under current regulations. Grassley also said most of the H-1B visas are used by foreign-headquartered companies, and American companies who need high-tech international employees get only a small part of the annual quota.

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January 2, 2008

California group forms to fight Chinese censorship

A group calling itself the “California First Amendment Coalition” has formed to fight Chinese government censorship of the Internet. The group has used an approach that many large and small business who have been victims of this censorship (including this one) have long encouraged: make the argument that censorship and the blocking of political content is a free trade issue. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle:

In a presentation Monday to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in Washington, the San Rafael, Calif.-based California First Amendment Coalition argued that China’s blatant and sophisticated censorship of the Internet violates China’s obligations under the World Trade Organization.

The nonprofit group wants the U.S. Trade Representative to file a petition with the WTO alleging that China has breached agreements that WTO members must adhere to. China became a member of the WTO in 2001. The WTO has never addressed whether e-commerce and Internet access are covered by the organization’s bylaws — but activists say the CFAC initiative could become a test case.

According to CFAC attorneys, WTO agreements give members “rights of market access” for bilateral trade — but many electronic retailers cannot have fully operable Web sites for Chinese consumers because of government censorship. “China’s censorship of the Internet, while fundamentally an issue of free speech and individual liberty, is also a significant barrier to U.S.-China commerce and, therefore, very much a trade issue,” said Peter Scheer, executive director of San Rafael, Calif.-based CFAC.

China’s government uses software to root out offensive keywords and block blacklisted Web sites. Government censors, known as Net nannies, surf the Web looking for pornography, subversive political content or other illegal material. China — which has 162 million Web users — is among a handful of countries that have extensive filters for political sites. Iran, Myanmar, Syria, Tunisia and Vietnam also believed to block political content.I

Filed under China, Foreign Relations, Internet by

December 28, 2007

Vietnam Deports Vietnamese-American from California Dissident Group

Communist Vietnam deported a Vietnamese-American pro-democracy activist last week, according to a report in New American Media. Leon Truong was arrested on Nov. 17 with five other pro-democracy activists, including one U.S. citizen, a French citizen, one Thai and two Vietnamese nationals, accused of plotting terrorism against the communist state. Truong, a member of the banned California-based Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party), left on a Taipei-bound China Airlines flight from Saigon, Vietnam Television reported. The arrests had led to a rally of Vietnamese Americans outside the Vietnamese embassy in Washington, a protest letter to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung from a group of Congress members, and a call to explain the charges from the U.S. ambassador to Hanoi.

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November 14, 2007

Yahoo settles lawsuit over jailed Chinese journalists

Yahoo got absolutely lambasted in Congress last week for its role in helping the Chinese government arrest and imprison Chinese journalists. “While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, and holocaust survivor Tom Lantos, D-Calif., said in an angry statement at that hearing.

The case involved Shi Tao who was jailed for allegedly providing state secrets to foreigners after he sent an e-mail that contained notes about government media restrictions, and Wang Xiaoning who was arrested in 2002 in connection with anonymous e-mails and other political writings he posted online. Both journalists were arrested after Yahoo turned over information about their online activities and both were given harsh 10 year prison terms. Family members of Shi and Wang in April sued Yahoo and the Chinese company Alibaba.com, which took over Yahoo’s mainland China operations in 2005.

In a dramatic moment during the hearing, Yahoo Chief executive Jerry Yang and General Counsel Michael Callahaner were prompted to apologize to Shi’s mother, who was sitting behind them, and both turned to her and bowed deeply. “After meeting with the families, it was clear to me what we had to do to make this right for them, for Yahoo and for the future,” Yang said later in a statement. “We are committed to making sure our actions match our values around the world.” Yang also said the company also was establishing a “human rights fund to provide humanitarian and legal aid to dissidents who have been imprisoned for expressing their views online.”

Let’s hope that is sincere- it sounds like it is. Yahoo was born here in California- and while we wish them great success in all their foreign ventures, we hope they don’t forget that they are an American company Now it is up to the Chinese authorities to release Shi Tao and Wang Xiaoning, and anyone else who has been jailed on such ridiculous charges. This will be a thorn in U.S. China relations, and an unnecessary one that alienates the very people likely to be most friendly towards China.

Filed under China, Foreign Relations, Legal and Criminal Issues, Media and Entertainment by

October 23, 2007

Google being blocked and redirected in China

We know China will block Internet sites whose politics they don’t like (it has happened to us) but now it seems they may be blocked for business reasons as well. Worse, it has been reported that they are redirecting traffic from some sites to those of competitors. Isn’t that stealing? From Business Week, “China’s Internet Censors Strike Again”:

Google has confirmed that the search giant’s Chinese service was out of business for parts of last Thursday and Friday. “We’ve had numerous reports that Google.cn and other search engines were inaccessible in China last week,” says John Pinette, Google’s Hong Kong-based spokesman, adding that “traffic was being redirected to other sites.”

Pinette wouldn’t comment on just where that Google traffic went. But it seems the site that ended up receiving the Google traffic was Baidu, the Chinese search engine that is tops in the market and over the years has been able to win fans among Chinese officialdom for being obedient in following censorship rules. Baidu already has a big lead over Google in the Chinese search market (more than half of Chinese searches take place on Baidu, versus about 25% for Google). It doesn’t help Google’s cause that the censors seem to be steering traffic Baidu’s way, too.

Filed under China, Foreign Relations, Internet, Media and Entertainment, Opinion by

October 16, 2007

Peace Activist jailed in Iran back in California

Ali Shakeri, an Iranian-American peace activist who spent four months in a Tehran prison has returned home after posting bond with Iranian authorities. Shakeri was arrested in May and charged with endangering national security, along with three other Iranian-Americans. He was released in late September, at the same time that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly. Shakeri is a founding board member of the University of California, Irvine’s Center for Citizen Peacebuilding. He was detained after traveling to Iran to visit his ailing mother. Shakeri has given speeches and radio interviews advocating democracy in Iran and has written occasionally for Payam-E-Ashena, a pro-democracy Persian magazine based in Laguna Hills. His son told reporters that he was allowed to leave the country after posting a property deed for about $110,000 and may have to return to Iran to answer the charges against him, but that the family has little information about the legal process there, or even the exact charges he faces.

Filed under Foreign Relations, Iran, Legal and Criminal Issues by

October 7, 2007

Shades of ping-pong diplomacy?

That’s what is being reported as North Korean Karate team visits L.A.

In a visit already drawing comparisons to the “ping pong diplomacy” between the U.S. and China in the 1970s, a team of North Korean masters of the martial art tae kwon do is expected to arrive in Los Angeles on Thursday for an unprecedented 13-day American tour. In Los Angeles, the 18 North Koreans are expected to be joined by American and South Korean practitioners of the ancient Korean combat art in a three-hour performance. They also will spend the day hobnobbing at the quintessentially American institution, Warner Brothers Studios, before traveling to San Francisco; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Louisville, Ky.; and Atlanta.

Full story at this link: : http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21000352/

Filed under Foreign Relations, North Korea, z9-Uncategorized by

September 27, 2007

California to divest from Iran

The Los Angeles Times reports that Governor Schwarzenegger will sign legislation requiring California’s multibillion-dollar government pension funds to divest from the country:

As Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid his controversial visit to New York on Monday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger moved to steal some of the spotlight by announcing that California would sever ties with companies doing business in Iran.

Schwarzenegger, who like Ahmadinejad went to New York to address the United Nations, announced in a written statement after his speech that he would sign legislation requiring California’s multibillion-dollar state pension funds to divest from the country.

The move, pushed by a diverse coalition of activists who argued that the federal government has not done enough to keep multinational corporations out of Iran, puts California at the forefront of a national movement. The bill, AB 221, which passed the Legislature with no opposition, follows the state’s divestment from Sudan last year.

“California has a long history of leadership and doing what’s right with our investment portfolio,” the governor said in his statement. “Last year, I was proud to sign legislation to divest from the Sudan to take a powerful stand against genocide. I look forward to signing legislation to divest from Iran to take an equally powerful stand against terrorism.”

Schwarzenegger announced his decision as politicians from across the country jockeyed to outdo one another in condemning the Iranian president, who is scheduled to address the United Nations today. Ahmadinejad, whom the U.S. government accuses of leading a terrorist regime that arms Iraqi insurgents and is developing nuclear weapons

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August 9, 2007

Congressman Lantos calls Yahoo “despicable” for role in Shi Tao case

Congressional investigators plan to look into whether Yahoo officials misrepresented the Internet company’s role in the arrest of a Chinese journalist sentenced to a decade in jail, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos ordered the investigation after a human rights group released a document that it said raised questions about what Yahoo knew when it shared information with authorities about Shi Tao. Beijing officials had sought Shi for sending an e-mail about Chinese media restrictions.

“For a firm engaged in the information industry, Yahoo sure has a lot of secrecy to answer for,” said Lantos, D-Calif. “We expect to learn the truth and to hold the company to account.”

Yahoo general counsel Michael Callahan told lawmakers at a hearing last year that his company had no information about the nature of the investigation when it provided details about Shi to Chinese officials, Lantos said. But the Dui Hua Foundation has released a document that it says shows the Beijing State Security Bureau had written Yahoo saying it wanted e-mail content about Shi for an investigation into suspected “illegal provision of state secrets to foreign entities.” Lantos said that “covering up such a despicable practice when Congress seeks an explanation is a serious offense.”

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July 2, 2007

Schwarzenegger, French president discuss trade and global warming

Governor Schwarzenegger’s toured European last week and stopped in France, where he discussed trade, global warming and politics with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. After a 30-minute talk, Schwarzenegger said he admired Sarkozy “tremendously” and believed the president would “put a new energy in the relationship between France and other countries, and our state.” Both pledged to work together on ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Schwarzenegger called Sarkozy “fresh new blood for politics in the world, because he is a politician that believes in inclusion and not in making everyone the enemy, which we have seen so many times in politics.” The Governor said he also was studying France’s method of using public-private partnerships to build schools, highways, rail lines, energy plants and other projects. Schwarzenegger and Sarkozy also discussed the possibility of twin trade missions next year, with French officials promoting their country’s products in California and Schwarzenegger returning to France. The Governor has previously organized trade missions to China, Japan, Mexico and Canada for his business associates and Corporate supporters. An additional trade mission to India is planned for the fall.

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June 11, 2007

Iran confirms arrest of California peace activist

This is bound to harm U.S. Iran relations, according to this report in the Guardian, and it will certainly harm California-Iran Relations, with our huge population of Americans of Iranian descent- many of whom are reaching out in a positive way to the Iranian people.  

Mohammad Ali Hosseini, the spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, confirmed at his weekly news briefing that Iranian-American Ali Shakeri is being held.  On Friday, the semi-official ISNA news agency first reported the detention and investigation of Shakeri, of Lake Forest, Calif., by the security department of the Tehran prosecutor’s office.  Shakeri, a founding board member of the University of California, Irvine, Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, is the fourth dual citizen detained in Iran in recent months.  Iranian officials previously confirmed the detentions of three other Iranian-Americans: scholar Haleh Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant with George Soros’ Open Society Institute; and Parnaz Azima, a journalist who works for the U.S.-funded Radio Farda.  All three are accused of endangering Iran’s national security and of espionage, according to a judiciary spokesman. It is not known if Shakeri has been accused of specific wrongdoing.

The United States broke ties with Iran after the storming of the U.S. Embassy there in 1979 and the seizure of U.S diplomats as hostages, however the Bush Administration was recently forced to begin talks with Iran because of public and congressional opinion and the Baker Hamilton Report.  Since political extremists now control the Federal Governments of both countries, it is thought that these people-to-people contacts may offer the best hope for better relations between the U.S. an Iran.  This action by the current Government in Iran, however, could put a chill on those relations for many more years to come.

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May 26, 2007

California Peace Activist Missing in Iran

The L.A. Times has reported that Ali Shakeri, a “much admired” Iranian-American community in Orange County is missing in Iran:

In March, Shakeri told colleagues he was flying to Tehran; his mother was ailing. But when former President Carter spoke at UCI this month, and Shakeri was oddly absent from the event, board members began to wonder whether he was coming home.

This week, the group Human Rights Watch said the Iranian government probably detained Shakeri, 59, at a Tehran airport and might be interrogating him in an isolated location. He was scheduled to leave Iran and fly to Europe on May 13 but never arrived at his destination. Instead, his ticket had been canceled and his luggage taken from the airline’s possession, the group said.  “It’s a disaster,” said John Graham of the UC Irvine center, “that this voice of peace has been potentially silenced.”

In recent weeks, two Iranian American scholars with dual citizenship have been imprisoned while visiting the country. A reporter, also a dual national, had her passport confiscated and is unable to leave Iran. The detention of one of those scholars, Haleh Esfandiari, bears close parallels to Shakeri’s apparent disappearance… When she headed to the airport to leave Iran on Dec. 30, she was stopped by knife-wielding men in masks, according to center officials. She was interrogated extensively and, earlier this month, imprisoned. The Iranian government this week announced she was being charged with setting up a network to overthrow the Islamic establishment.

In Orange County, where immigrant groups estimate about 250,000
Iranians live, Shakeri moved in political circles but did not dominate
them, friends said. He gave speeches and radio interviews and
periodically wrote about politics for Payam-E-Ashena, Payam’s magazine. 

Hossein Hosseini, a member of the Network of Iranian-American
Professionals of Orange County, said Shakeri advocated changing Iran’s
leadership but maintained that the Iranian people would bring about
that change only over time.  “He was only controversial depending
on your point of view,” Hosseini said. “To those who wanted to up and
overthrow the regime, he’s a sympathizer. He wasn’t a big thing. He
wasn’t well-known across the world. He was a harmless local guy.”

Filed under Foreign Relations, Iran, z9-Uncategorized by

May 10, 2007

Chief Minister of Indian State of Andhra Pradesh on trade mission in California

“A popular state leader from India is on a trade mission in California. The idea is to forge new alliances between California’s Silicon Valley and the booming Indian economy. The popular Chief Minister of Andhra Pardesh, India is making a splash in Silicon Valley. Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy comes armed with a trade video touting his southern region of India, and desire for new investment. Chief Minister Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, State of Andhra Pradesh: ‘So the synergy’s we have with California, we want to enlarge for that the synergy’s we have with Silicon Valley, we want to enlarge with that.’ India predicts its demand for semiconductors will be a $35 billion dollar market by 2015. Many Silicon Valley companies are already there and expanding, others are moving in… This is a busy day for the Chief Minster. After networking in Silicon Valley, he went to Sacramento to meet with Governor Arnold Schwazenegger and then back to San Jose for an event tonight with Lt. Governor John Garamendi… Chief Minister Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, ‘The Californians they should try to go into more research and more value added things and try to outsource less important things to developing countries like us and have it be a win-win situation for both.’ Dr. Reddy may not be able to sell his ideas to everyone, but he is eager to sell Andhra Pardesh India to California.”

Filed under Foreign Relations, India, Silicon Valley by

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