Governor Brown Convenes International Trade and Investment Advisory Council, Appoints Former U.S. Ambassador as Chair


SACRAMENTO – Bolstering the state’s efforts to grow international business opportunities for California’s companies, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today established the California International Trade and Investment Advisory Council and appointed former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Eleni Kounalakis as chair.

“As the economy recovers, California is well-positioned to expand its reach into foreign markets,” said Governor Brown. “Under the leadership of Ambassador Kounalakis, this council will help the state do just that.”

The California economy benefits significantly from international trade and investment. California registered a record number of exports in 2013 with businesses exporting over $168 billion in goods, 4 percent higher than the previous year. Foreign-controlled companies employ 590,100 California workers and foreign investment in the state is responsible for 4.9 percent of the state’s total private industry employment.

The advisory council will advise the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) on strategies to expand international trade and investment for California businesses. Specifically, the council will assist GO-Biz in identifying foreign markets with the greatest potential for export expansion and in developing specific export strategies for those markets – including the state’s top trading partners, Canada, Mexico and China, and emerging markets such as Brazil and India.

“California’s businesses are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the global economy and the state can be a strong partner in their success,” Kounalakis said. “The Advisory Council will provide GO-Biz with advice on identifying specific California industries with potential for growth in exports and assistance in developing foreign investment strategies.”

Northern California businesswoman and philanthropist Eleni Kounalakis has been appointed chair of the California International Trade and Investment Advisory Council. From January 2010 to July 2013, she served as the United States Ambassador to Hungary, appointed by President Barack Obama. She is a member of the board of the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, where she received her MBA in 1992, and holds an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the American College of Greece. She also serves on the Global Advisory Council of the International Society for Stem Cell Research. Previously, Ambassador Kounalakis served as a member of the California State World Trade Commission, The California First Five Commission and the San Francisco War Memorial. An active advocate of interfaith cooperation, she served for ten years as a Trustee of the World Council of Religions for Peace. In recognition of her service, she was awarded the Medal of St. Paul, the highest lay honor of the Greek Orthodox Church in America. Committed to the advancement of Hellenic ideals, Ambassador Kounalakis and her husband, veteran journalist Markos Kounalakis, endowed university Chairs at Georgetown and Stanford dedicated to the study of Athenian Democracy. Ambassador Kounalakis lives with her husband and two children in San Francisco.

This announcement builds on Governor Brown’s actions to boost foreign trade, including the 2013 Trade and Investment Mission to China, the opening of the California-China Office of Trade and Investment in Shanghai and a trade meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping in California. In January, the Governor announced in his 2014 State of the State he would soon visit Mexico to discuss trade and climate change.

During his 2013 Trade and Investment Mission to China, Governor Brown met with China’s Premier, China’s Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, top government officials from Shenzhen, Guangdong, Jiangsu, and Shanghai, China’s Minister of Commerce and China’s Minister of Environmental Protection, signing the first agreements ever between a subnational entity and Chinese Ministries.

The Governor also opened the California-China Office of Trade and Investment in Shanghai, delivered remarks on climate change at Tsinghua University in Beijing, met with the U.S. Ambassador to China at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and spoke at forums hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in South China and American Chamber of Commerce – Beijing.

Since then, Governor Brown met with President Xi in June 2013 to discuss continued bilateral cooperation on trade, investment, climate change, technology, infrastructure, tourism, education and agriculture. The Governor also joined China’s top climate official, National Development and Reform Commission Vice Chairman Xie Zhenhua, in September to sign a first-of-its-kind agreement on climate change between the NDRC and a subnational entity.