Tag Archives: foreign relations

ECD expanding TN international operations

Tennessee’s Department of Economic and Community Development will soon contract for a representative to promote the state in South Korea and ECD Commissioner has plans for new offices in China, Germany and Italy as well, according to WPLN.

Pending final contracts, the state Department of Economic and Community Development is planning to open a new office in Seoul early next year. The goal is to recruit more Asian companies to do business in Tennessee.

And it’s not the only part of the world the state is eyeing: Commissioner Randy Boyd also wants an office in southern Germany, to access its automotive industry, and in northern Italy, for its ceramic tile business.

“We’ve got a couple of companies already from northern Italy” in Tennessee, Boyd says. “It turns out, because of our clay and other natural resources, this is a great place for ceramics.”

Boyd — essentially the state’s chief salesman — also plans to open an office in China and possibly add a second one there to tap into more of the market.

“Businesses in Italy or in China don’t know that much about Tennessee. They may not even be able to find us on a map, so just hoping that they might show up at our door one day and decide to locate here is pretty unrealistic,” he says.

…Tennessee has had a similar office in Japan for the last decade and a half. Boyd credits the abundance of Japanese companies in Tennessee — 182 establishments employing more than 48,500 people — to the office’s success.

“We could have one person knocking on doors every day, 10 times a day for the next 20 years, in each of the markets that we’re looking at,” he says.

Roe visits Afghanistan

News release from U.S. Rep. Phil Roe
WASHINGTON, D.C. –Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) spent the Thanksgiving holiday visiting with soldiers in Afghanistan. Roe was part of a bipartisan delegation that included the following members: Reps. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Mark Takano (D-CA), Mike Coffman (R-CO), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH) and Dr. Ralph Abraham (R-LA). While the Congressman was abroad, he was briefed on the status of the U.S. mission and met with President Ghani.

Roe released the following statement on the visit:

“It was an honor to spend Thanksgiving with our troops in Afghanistan, and to hear about the progress we’re making in the country. I am extremely grateful to our soldiers for their service and for welcoming us with so much pride and hospitality. These brave men and women put themselves in harm’s way every day, and I couldn’t be prouder of their caliber. I also appreciate President Ghani taking the time to meet with us and for hosting us at the presidential palace.”

On Bob Corker’s ‘very, very somber’ trip to Paris

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker journeyed to Paris and placed a wreath decorated with red, white and blue ribbons next to the stack of bouquets and candles that have been piling up on the sidewalk beside Le Carillon, a pub-café where terrorists had gunned down more than a dozen people as part of the recent murders.

So reports Michael Collins. A further excerpt:

“It was just very, very somber,” the Tennessee Republican said of the mood outside the café, one of various sites in Paris that terrorists hit on the night of Nov. 13. “To be there, to see the bullet holes in the windows and the walls and to know just a few days before that people were just mowed down — it was very sobering.”

Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, added the stopover in France to an already planned trip to the Middle East after terrorists killed 130 people and wounded another 368 in their coordinated strike on Paris. The attacks have stoked fears all over the world and have left Americans wondering whether the U.S. is at risk of a similar assault.

Corker was in Paris less than 24 hours, but while he was there, he received a briefing at the U.S. embassy, talked with the FBI and met with French security and intelligence officials to discuss U.S. cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State, or ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Part of the conversation focused on what needs to be done collectively to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

“It was a very beneficial 24 hours,” Corker said. He would not provide any details about what he learned.

Note: A related Corker press release posting (he talked with CNN about it) is HERE.

Sunday column: TN politics goes global in refugee rhetoric

Last week’s remarkable Tennessee political discourse on Syrian refugees illustrates, once again, the irrelevance today of that old adage about all politics being local. Instead, state politics revolves around national events and is maybe even becoming increasingly international.

The old adage was made famous back in the 1980s by Democratic U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill, who was known to openly collaborate with Republican President Ronald Reagan.

No partisan collaboration was readily apparent in the rush to rhetorical bombardment from Tennessee Republicans and Democrats in the aftermath of a despicable terrorist attack in Paris (France, not Tennessee), including news reports that at least one suicide bomber got into the country as a Syrian refugee.

But just maybe there was something close to collaboration, given the national and state political environment, in the cautious reaction of Gov. Bill Haslam, chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

He merely asked the federal government to suspend sending any new Syrian refugees to Tennessee while the vetting process is reviewed, stopping short of declarations by fellow GOP governors vowing to block any attempt to locate homeless Syrians within their states. President Barack Obama has proposed bringing about 10,000 new Syrian refugees into the country as a whole.
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Haslam, Harwell, Ramsey want no Syrian refugees in TN

Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell have joined Republican political leaders around the nation in criticizing plans by the Obama administration to allow Syrian refugees into the United States. Haslam, Ramsey and Harwell specifically say they don’t want the refugees in Tennessee.

News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today released the following statement regarding the terrorist attacks in Paris and the placement of Syrian refugees:

“As we mourn the loss of innocent life from Friday’s horrific and cowardly attacks in Paris, these terrible events have once again shown us that the threat of Islamic terrorism knows no boundaries and recognizes no borders. We as a state must do everything we can to provide Tennesseans the safe environment to live, work and raise a family that so many across the world seek.

“Since Friday the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security has been in contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and this administration has actively shared information with our local public safety partners across Tennessee.

“We are currently working to get specifics from the U.S. Department of State on the status of any Syrian refugees currently slated to come to Tennessee. While screening, acceptance and placement is legally under the authority of the federal government, they have said in the past they would be open to cooperating with receiving states. Today I’m asking the federal government to suspend placements in Tennessee until states can become more of a partner in the vetting process.”

Note: Some other Republican governors have declared flatly they will not accept any Syrian refugees — for example, those in Arkansas, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana. Fox News story HERE.

Text of letter from Speakers Harwell and Ramsey to the Tennessee congressional delegation:
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Legislator’s letter to Haslam: Allow no Syrian refugees in Tennessee

Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, is asking fellow state legislators ti sign on to a letter she plans to deliver Wednesday to Gov. Bill Haslam, asking him to block the re-settlement in Tennessee of any Syrian refugees who haven’t gone through an extensive federal security clearance process.

From The Tennessean:

Although hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the years-long conflict in Syria, the country is also home to the de facto capital of the terrorist organization the Islamic State. The Islamic State, or ISIS, has already claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris that left at least 129 people dead and hundreds more injured.

…As Butt notes in her letter, there are reports that at least one of the attackers came to France along with refugees.

From July through the end of September, a little less than 600 refugees arrived in Tennessee, according to a quarterly report from the Tennessee Office of Refugees. That includes 378 refugees in Davidson County, 84 refugees in Knox County and 60 refugees in Shelby County.

Over the course of the next federal fiscal year. which began Oct. 1, the office anticipates another 1,800 refugees will re-settle in Tennessee. Roughly 1,300 are expected to settle in Davidson, Rutherford and Williamson counties, according to the report.

The office is run by Catholic Charities of Tennessee. Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, wants the state to play a more active role in regulating what refugees are allowed in Tennessee. In an email obtained by The Tennessean, Bowling argues the state is “totally unaware of who these ‘refugees’ are” with Catholic Charities running refugee resettlement in Tennessee.

UPDATE/Note: A few hours after this post, Haslam announced he has requested a suspension of any plans to bring Syrian refugees to Tennessee (Post: HERE). Butt says more than 40 other legislators had signed her letter at that point. Text of Butt’s letter is below:
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Corker eyes subpoena of Kerry

Sen. Bob Corker is considering issuing a subpoena for Secretary of State John Kerry, reports Politico, adding that this reflects growing frustration among Republicans that Kerry is stonewalling the panel in an effort to avoid testifying about the Syrian civil war.

Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations committee, also alleges the State Department isn’t being truthful about Kerry’s schedule to avoid a panel appearance.

Corker (R-Tenn.) has been trying to secure a Kerry visit to discuss the brutal Syrian civil war for more than a week, sources said, but the chairman now claims that Kerry won’t return his phone calls, wants to send “underlings” to testify in his stead and is sending Congress signals that he is out of town when he is not.
Now, Corker says he’s mulling more serious action.

“I don’t know what steps to take, subpoenaing a secretary of state is certainly an extraordinary step and one that needs to be thought about,” Corker said at an unrelated committee business meeting on Thursday. “I don’t know what to do when you have the biggest crisis, people flooding into Europe, 100 percent change taking place on the ground.”

Responding to Corker, State Department spokesman John Kirby insisted the snafu was due to a scheduling conflict and said Kerry will “continue to discuss with Chairman Corker any and all future requests for his appearance.”

Secretary Kerry was unable to testify on the date proposed by Chairman Corker due to a previously scheduled trip overseas. The State Department offered to provide in his absence either Deputy Secretary Blinken or Assistant Secretary Anne Patterson,” Kirby said.

The GOP chairman has worked closely with the administration and Senate Democrats on processing some of Kerry’s nominees through his panel and has worked in tandem with the White House on several legislative initiatives, like a State Department reauthorization and expanding utilities in Africa. But Corker sharply rebuked Kerry in July over the Iran deal, saying he got “fleeced” in the negotiations with Tehran, and the Tennessee Republican ended up becoming one of the nuclear agreements biggest opponents after biting his tongue for weeks.

Governor reviews trade trip to Israel

Gov. Bill Haslam says Israel and Tennessee have “an obvious connection” related to health care and other sectors, reports the Times-Free Press.

“We catch heat about being low-cost. We’re low-cost compared to New York, San Francisco and L.A.,” Haslam said in Chattanooga on Thursday.

The governor, fresh off a jobs recruitment trip to Israel, cited work done at Erlanger hospital that he learned about in which surgeons are using Israeli technology to help stroke victims.

“Chattanooga has some advantages in that,” he said of an idea raised by Erlanger physician Dr. Thomas Devlin to make the city a low-cost entry point for Israeli companies to get into the U.S. market and through federal regulatory testing.

Devlin, who directs the Southeast Regional Stroke Center, said Israeli companies don’t want to go to places such as California or Boston.

“We have an opportunity to do this here. We have all the right business acumen, technology, health care research to do this,” he said.

Haslam, who took an 18-person delegation to Israel, said that’s the kind of connection he tries to make on such trips.

“One of the reasons I go on trips like this is to help enable those connections,” he said to about 100 people at the Jewish Cultural Center.

Haslam in Haifa: A press release from Israel

News release from Rambam Health Care
HAIFA, Israel – A delegation of leading government, business and healthcare leaders from Tennessee, including Gov. Bill Haslam and his wife, Crissy, visited Rambam Health Care Campus to see the latest innovations in healthcare and to discuss collaboration between the state and the hospital.

Rambam Health Care Campus is Northern Israel’s largest medical campus serving a potential population of two million people. The hospital has the only Level One trauma center in the region, and is home to the 2,000-bed Sammy Ofer Fortified Underground Emergency Hospital, the largest facility of its kind in the world. The hospital’s success in transforming healthcare innovations has received international acclaim, particularly in the fields of oncology, pediatrics, cardiology, mass casualty/ trauma care, and research innovation. Rambam’s doctors partake in fellowships throughout the United States. The State of Tennessee and the hospital will also be discussing possible collaborations.
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Haslam promotes ‘low-cost labor’ to foreign investors

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — While Republican Gov. Bill Haslam often states his goal of bringing “high-quality jobs” to Tennessee, a document produced by his administration suggests he may be less interested in making them high-paying positions.

The Commercial Appeal newspaper reports (http://bit.ly/1Q9mXcR ) that the Haslam administration is touting the state internationally as a place with a “low-cost labor force” and “very low unionization rates.”

That description is part of a request for information posted on the state’s website on Monday for people and firms in Europe, Asia and South America interested in representing Tennessee’s economic development goals with foreign companies.

“Tennessee is proud to be a right-to-work state with a low-cost labor force and no personal income tax on wages,” according to the document. “Our state and local tax burdens are some of the lowest in the region. We have the lowest debt per capita in the region and very low unionization rates — factors which continue to make our state attractive for foreign direct investment.”

Clint Brewer, a spokesman for the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said the that the state’s “labor cost is low, in part, because our state’s cost of living is one of the lowest in the country, ranking 8th lowest among all 50 states.

“Tennessee’s overall cost of living is 9.5 percentage points below the national average, and housing costs are 21.1 percentage points below the national average,” Brewer said in an email. “This is a selling point for companies selecting Tennessee versus other states.”

Haslam has been a vocal critic of the United Auto Workers’ efforts to gain collective bargaining rights at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, arguing that it would hurt efforts to lure foreign companies to Tennessee.

Leaked documents last year showed that the Haslam administration tried to make the state share of a $300 million incentive package for Volkswagen to expand its plant contingent on labor talks “being concluded to the satisfaction” of the state. Haslam at the time declined to specify which scenarios would have satisfied the state.

The incentive deal struck later in the year to add production of a new SUV at the plant did not include the labor provisions.

UAW officials at the General Motors plant in Spring Hill have touted the union’s efforts in both restarting production at the factory after the Great Recession and for bringing jobs to Tennessee that would have otherwise gone to the automaker’s plants in Mexico.

And Democratic Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has made Tennessee’s anti-union stance a sales point for his state.

“We have an open-door policy and welcome companies no matter what their desires may be in terms of labor-management relationships,” Beshear said earlier this year. “We don’t try to dictate what that relationship should be. We think that’s up to the company and to the employees.”

Brewer, the economic development spokesman, said that the state’s stance on unions is a selling point abroad.

“Low-unionization rates in Tennessee are also attractive to companies even if they come from a heavily unionized country,” he said. “Our recruitment and that of other right-to-work states shows that to be true. ”

Further, from the cited CA story:

The RFI seeks responses for representatives in seven regions: the United Kingdom and Western Europe, Korea, Italy, Germany, Eastern Europe, China and Brazil. It asks responders for details on the services they would provide, including how they would identify companies that might be recruited to Tennessee; how they would call on companies and sell the benefits of locating or expanding in Tennessee; how many leads they would approach in a month, a quarter and a year; how they would develop a priority customer or lead list, and how often they would expect ECD staffers to visit companies, trade shows and conferences in their regions.