O’Malley, back from Asia, details ‘engagement abroad’

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), recently back from a 10-day economic development trip to Asia, offered a travelogue of sorts for reporters Tuesday, mixing photos of the trip with claims of closed business deals during a morning presentation.

The governor spoke of the importance of “engagement abroad” as he recounted stops in China, South Korea and Vietnam, and he invited some of the 68 business and higher education leaders who accompanied him to share what they got out of the experience.

“This is a huge, huge, huge part of the world,” said O’Malley, for whom it was his first trip to the rapidly developing region.

O’Malley also disclosed that he would like to visit South and Central America, India and Africa before his second term is out, attempting to leverage business opportunities for Maryland companies there, too, with the power of the governor’s office.

O’Malley said he was not prepared to disclose the cost of the trip to taxpayers, which an aide had previously pegged at about $100,000. That figure apparently includes only the cost of governor’s office representatives and those associated with O’Malley’s Department of Business and Economic Development, which coordinated the mission.

In his presentation, O’Malley said the trip had resulted in $85 million worth of direct foreign investments in Maryland. That includes plans announced by Tasly Group, one of China’s leading biopharmaceutical companies, to invest $40 million in a new production facility and training center at Shady Grove Life Sciences Center in Montgomery County.

Lin Hwang, vice president of J&R Seafood of Cambridge, recounted for reporters a smaller victory he attributed to the trip. His company already exports seafood, including frozen blue crabs, to Korea. The trip with the governor has fostered new opportunities in China, Hwang said.

“I expect to do a lot of business in China,” he told reporters, assembled around a table in the governor’s reception room.

Toward the end of the hour-long session, O’Malley also summoned in his 13-year-old son, William, who accompanied the delegation on the China leg of the trip (not at taxpayers’ expense, an aide noted). He could be seen in several photos his father displayed, including one from a visit to the Great Wall of China.

“William O’Malley was a huge hit,” the governor said. “He was like the mascot of our trip.”

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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