HELENA — Gov. Brian Schweitzer said Friday that he will use an upcoming two-week trip to China to promote Montana wheat, beef, tourism and energy — and will continue to run state affairs by remaining in "24/7" contact with staffers.
The governor is scheduled to leave Friday. He's set to be the keynote speaker at a conference in Beijing on coal technologies, such as producing liquid fuel from coal. The Gasification & Coal Chemicals in Asia Pacific 2011 Conference is being held next Wednesday and Thursday.
"I have been asked to speak at the international coal gasification conference in China and I was able to sort of organize this trip around the opportunity to speak there," Schweitzer said.
There's potential for more Montana coal to be shipped to energy-hungry China in the coming years, Schweitzer said. China has large supplies of coal but has also been importing the fuel.
A delegation that includes officials from other states will travel to Shanghai and Hong Kong, as well as the Guangxi and Hunan regions. Schweitzer said he will meet with a chain of American restaurants in China in hopes of convincing them to sell Montana branded beef. He'll also be meeting with Chinese officials while in the country.
The governor said his wife, Nancy, will be joining him on the trip.
Schweitzer said his trip is being paid for by the Council of State Governments, a nonpartisan trade group over which he is serving as president for a year.
"The state of Montana is not paying a dime for us to go," the governor said.
Despite a 14-hour time difference, Schweitzer said he will be able to run state affairs by staying in touch with staff over phone and the Internet. He's scheduled to return June 18.