California’s lieutenant governor to focus on foreign trade

March 1, 2019 GMT

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s lieutenant governor has a new role promoting the state as an international trading partner.

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis will head a committee tasked with reopening trade offices in foreign countries and promoting the state’s trade interests, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday.

The new committee is the latest example of California seeking more influence on the global stage during the Trump presidency. California already has a trade office in China, opened under former Gov. Jerry Brown, and Newsom wants to reopen a trade office in Mexico.

Kounalakis, a Democrat and former ambassador to Hungary under former President Barack Obama, said she’s excited to elevate California’s role on the world stage.

“I’m very honored to work with (Newsom) to make sure that California’s interests and our values are adequately represented in the world,” she said.

California is the nation’s most populous state and the world’s fifth largest economy when compared to other nations. The state’s gross domestic product is $2.7 trillion annually and that it accounts for 11 percent of the United States’ exported products, according to Newsom’s office.


Kounalakis, who worked on California trade issues in the 1990s, said the state used to have multiple trade offices abroad that have since shut down. She said reopening an office in Mexico is a priority but she also plans to look for other places to expand California’s presence.

Beyond California’s economic power, Kounalakis said the state is a “beacon” of progressive and democratic values and deserves a place in international conversations.

Newsom created the International Affairs and Trade Development Interagency Committee by executive order. Lenny Mendonca, his chief economic and business adviser, will serve as its vice chair.