Add China to the list of topics that are awkward for Scott Walker.
This afternoon, the Wisconsin governor and presidential contender raised eyebrows by calling on President Obama to cancel the upcoming state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the U.S.
“Americans are struggling to cope with the fall in today’s markets driven in part by China’s slowing economy and the fact that they actively manipulate their economy,” Walker said in a statement to press. “Rather than honoring Chinese President Xi Jinping with an official state visit next month, President Obama should focus on holding China accountable over its increasing attempts to undermine U.S. interests.”
But here’s the thing: The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation—which was a key part of Walker’s (unsuccessful) plan to bring 250,000 jobs to the state during his first term as governor, currently has two “Global Trade Ventures” advertised in 2016—to China. And in 2013, per Forbes, the governor met with Xi Jinping while in China on a trip promoting trade between his state and the country.
WEDC’s website lists two trips, one in January of 2016 and another in May.
“Whether you’re looking for customers or distributors to help you expand your global reach (or both), WEDC’s targeted trade ventures will help you build the relationships necessary for increased international sales,” the site says. “As a member of a WEDC trade venture delegation, you will receive a high-level country briefing from WEDC’s market development director before commencing a well-organized tour of the country’s major markets. At each stop, you will participate in pre-arranged, customized meetings with companies whose needs or capabilities align with your export objectives.”
The first trip, in January, advertises an official WEDC-organized trade venture delegation. The second listed, which WEDC also endorses, is sponsored by the Conference of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers. The site also notes that China is Wisconsin’s largest trading partner outside of this continent, and that China’s economic growth could be a boon to Wisconsin businesses.
“Societal changes in China will improve export opportunities for Wisconsin companies,” the site says.
“The rise of the middle class and urbanization throughout China make it a high-growth market where Wisconsin communities can build on relationships already established,” it continues. “China’s changes drive demand for products and technology. Meanwhile, Wisconsin businesses could also benefit from offshore service contracts for legal, financial and health care work.”
Walker spoke favorably of trade relations between Wisconsin and China when he visited there.
“Beijing and Shanghai are still growing populations, growing markets and growing opportunities for us,” he said on the 2013, per Forbes. “There is tremendous market growth potential for Wisconsin businesses in many different areas,” he added at the time.
Walker's team doesn't apologize for his criticism of the United States' relationship with China. A Walker aide emailed that the U.S. doesn't need high honors and ceremony from China's president, but rather economic engagement.
Scot Ross, who heads the progressive group One Wisconsin Now, criticized the governor for the apparent incongruency.
“Scott Walker doesn’t understand what’s going on in the world and doesn’t know what’s going on in his state,” he said. “In his desperate attempt to out-Trump Trump, Scott Walker has out-Palined Palin.”
“It’s pretty rich for a guy who’s had three positions on immigration in a week to be telling the President to get a backbone,” he added.
WEDC has also drawn a slough of criticism. Beyond failing to deliver on Walker’s promise of 250,000 new jobs, the organization—a public-private partnership that replaced the state’s department of commerce—has drawn bipartisan criticism for giving out awards without formal staff reviews to businesses that later failed.
Walker’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment. A WEDC spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for more information about the trade delegations and whether he feared they could face cancellation because of the governor’s opposition to Jinping’s state visit.