May 9, 2008                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton


      U.S. - China Insurance Dialogues part of trade negotiations between two countries
      State Auditor John Morrison will represent U.S. insurance regulators in the U.S.-China Insurance Dialogues in Hangzhou, China, next week. The dialogues, part of trade negotiations between the two countries, will be held May 15-16. Morrison will be joined by the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative and representatives from the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Labor and Agriculture, as well as spokespeople for the U.S. insurance industry.
      Morrison will speak on behalf of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, a body made up of the state officials who regulate insurance. Because there is no federal insurance regulator, the NAIC is the national voice of insurance regulation and has had a growing international role as U.S. Insurance companies have gone global. Morrison is the NAIC's international vice-chair for Asia.
      "The trade issues on the table in this meeting are important to the U.S. and to Montana," Morrison said. "Insurance and other financial services are the backbone of China's amazing growth and, directly or indirectly, we all have a stake in that growth." Montana Blue Cross Blue Shield, for example, is part of a coalition that hopes to work soon with China Life Insurance Company to deliver health insurance to Chinese citizens, Morrison said. And mainland China, together with Taiwan, purchase nearly $100 million in goods and services from Montana businesses annually, a number that is growing.
      The Insurance Dialogues will cover a number of agreed upon insurance related trade issues that are of concern to both countries. Morrison will address issues that include expansion of health insurance, catastrophe insurance in a time of climate change, and rules governing management of insurance company assets.
      Morrison, together with the NAIC president and an elected Republican commissioner from Florida, led the group's first delegation to China in 2003 to open a relationship with the Chinese Insurance Regulatory Commission. The meeting spawned an internship program that has brought twenty some Chinese insurance regulators to the U.S. for month long training visits in state insurance departments. Li Xiangjun, chief legal counsel in Jiangsu province, served in Morrison's office last fall.
      The two countries also launched a joint insurance working group that presented a symposium in China last summer addressing steps necessary to provide health insurance to Chinese citizens; 85% of Chinese citizens lack health coverage. Following the symposium, Morrison and Stanford university professor Karen Eggleston co-authored recommendations to the Chinese government, including suggestions based on the Insure Montana small business health insurance program.
      Later this month, Morrison will address students at Stanford University about the Hangzhou dialogues.