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Huntsman leads trade trek to India

Group hopes to open doors during weeklong mission

A delegation of Utah higher education and high-tech company officials led by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. heads to India today for a weeklong trade mission.

The trip will take the group to the capital of India's government, New Delhi, as well as to that country's commercial and cultural capital, Mumbai, and include meetings with state and national government leaders.

Agreements are set to be signed by the University of Utah dealing with technology development and educational programs. Huntsman said that in India there is great interest in USTAR, Utah's science, technology and research initiative based at the U. and Utah State University.

The U. is sending five officials, including Jack Brittan, the dean of the School of Business, and Hiram Chodosh, dean of the College of Law. Utah State, Brigham Young University, Salt Lake Community College, Utah Valley State College and Westminster College are also sending representatives.

For the high-tech companies coming along, the trip will be an opportunity to capitalize on Utah's having what the governor said is the hottest economy in the United States, India's most important trading partner.

Participating companies include Ceramatec, which specializes in electrochemical technologies; FatPipe Networks, computer networks; vSpring Capital, venture capital; Prolexys Pharmaceuticals Inc., cancer drugs; and Zions Bank.

Success in India won't be marked by sealing big deals, Huntsman said in an interview with the Deseret Morning News Thursday. Instead, he said it will be in establishing greater ties between Utah and India.

His goal, the governor said, is to create a "deeper and more comprehensive understanding of what's happening in Utah among Indian leaders," both those in politics and in the private sector.

"It's hard to say where this is going to take us," the governor said. "I can already say it's going to be a success because we're going to get in all the right doors."

Huntsman said he used contacts made during his diplomatic days as a former U.S. ambassador to Singapore and a U.S. trade representative in India and other parts of Asia. A meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is still in the works, he said.

Meetings already scheduled include several with officials of the state of Maharashtra including the chief minister, or governor, Vilasrao Deshmukh, in Mumbai on Wednesday.

On Nov. 2, the governor will address students and faculty at Pune University, located just outside Mumbai, on the warming relationship between the United States and India in recent years that has sparked new trade and other exchanges.

Also on the agenda is a trip to Wai, a small, poor community where a new high school and a facility for disabled students will be dedicated Nov. 2. Huntsman said he has special ties to India after he and his wife, Mary Kaye, adopted a year-old girl from that country last December whom they named Asha Bharati.

"I'm thoroughly culturally invested in helping the people of India now that I have a familial tie that is very deep and very meaningful," the governor said.

This isn't the first such trip Huntsman has headed since taking office in 2005. He has led similar trade missions to Mexico, China and Canada that focused on meeting key leaders, including former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who later came to Utah and addressed the Legislature. Huntsman isn't the first governor to venture into India. In recent weeks, both California's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Minnesota's Gov. Tim Pawlenty have lead trade missions to India, Huntsman said.

The higher education institutions and businesses are responsible for their own costs on the trade mission. Huntsman said he is personally picking up his own tab, as he has done on past trade missions. Participants are scheduled to return to Utah on Nov. 4.