CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Senate President Jeff Kessler says he hopes to find new export opportunities for West Virginia's timber, coal, oil and gas products during an economic development trip to Taiwan.Kessler, D-Marshall; Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion; and Economic Development Chairman Bob Williams, D-Taylor, are scheduled to leave Thursday for a weeklong trip to Taipei, Taiwan.The trip will include visits with CPC Corp., Taiwan's largest energy provider, and Taiwan-based furniture manufacturers."They apparently have a great need for timber and hardwoods," Kessler told the Charleston Daily Mail. "It might be a golden opportunity."The government in Taiwan is sponsoring the trip. Kessler said West Virginia lawmakers have made similar trips in the past, including Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin when he was the Senate president.
"About every three or four years they invite a contingent of various state officials to visit their country for various economic development opportunities," Kessler said."We decided this year ... we probably ought to take them up on it," he said.The lawmakers also will meet with public health officials to discuss health research issues.West Virginia exports to Taiwan totaled more than $78 million in 2012, according to data from the state Development Office. The exports included $39 million in commodities and $24 million in plastics. Other exports included glassware, knitted items and dairy, egg and honey products.West Virginia opened a trade office in Taiwan in January 1997, during the administration of Gov. Gaston Caperton. Six years later, Gov. Bob Wise closed the office as part of cost-saving measures.In 1980, the Senate adopted a resolution establishing a "sister state" relationship with Taiwan.