The Arkansas Senate has passed a bill that would prohibit the Arkansas Economic Development Commission from setting up or maintaining an office in China. On Wednesday, March 10, state senators passed Senate Bill 252 (SB252) in a narrow 19-9 vote, with four senators not voting and four voting ‘present.’
Under Arkansas Code 15-4-209, the AEDC is authorized to establish international offices in order to facilitate the export of Arkansas products and services and to encourage foreign investment. However, this bill, sponsored by Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado), would make an exception, preventing the AEDC from setting up an office in China.
Currently, the AEDC does not have an office in China, having closed it last year. Yam Yee Wong is listed as the director of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan Business Relations on the AEDC’s website.
AEDC also has an Asia office based in Japan and a European office based in Berlin, Germany, according to its website.
The Senate vote was largely split along party lines. The 19 senators voting in favor of the bill were all Republicans, while all of the senators voting in opposition were Democrats. The two exceptions were Sen. Jane English, a Republican, and Sen. Jim Hendren, an Independent.
Meanwhile, all of the senators who did not vote or voted ‘present’ were Republican. Sen. Jimmy Hickey Jr., Sen. Blake Johnson, Sen. Bill Sample and Sen. James Sturch did not cast a vote. Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, Se. Lance Eads, Sen. Mathew Pitsch and Sen. David Wallace all voted ‘present.’
The bill was transferred to the Arkansas House of Representatives on Wednesday and was referred to the House’s Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee.