Source: 89.3 KPCC
Hundreds of business and government leaders from California and China gathered in downtown Los Angeles Thursday for the second annual California-China Business Summit, and many expressed cautious hope for the future, now that President Trump has backed away from his earlier threats of a trade war with Beijing.
“The fact he didn’t carry through on his campaign rhetoric, I think there’s been a collective sigh of relief,” said Peter Shiao, chairman of the conference and CEO of Orb Media Group. “Of course, it’s still tenuous.”
China invests in California more than any other state. Last year alone, a record $16.4 billion poured in, according to the Rhodium Group. China, which is also the U.S.’s largest trading partner, accounts for more than 40 percent of the traffic through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to the ports.
The conference featured breakout sessions devoted to agriculture, e-commerce, clean tech and infrastructure. However far-fetched the idea seems given Trump’s America-first rhetoric, Shiao hopes that Trump will enlist Chinese companies to help with his $1 trillion infrastructure plan.
“They’ve become the experts at large-scale building, whether it’s roads or bridges or high density,” said Shiao. “Those are the capabilities that we could benefit from. It’s a win-win situation.”
Representatives from six of China’s provinces made pitches about why their province is friendliest to California companies. In an interview afterwards, Han Jie, Deputy Director General of the Department of Commerce for the Eastern province of Zhejiang, said he had concerns about Trump’s protectionist rhetoric during the campaign but has since seen a softened stance.
“It’s better than we expected,” said Shiao.
However, not everyone was so sanguine.
“It’s safe to say we still have concerns,” said Glenn Millar, Director of Business Development at the California Milk Advisory Board.
Millar says it pains him to see other nations his members compete with, like New Zealand and Australia, work to open up doors with China while the U.S. adopts a more isolationist posture.
“They’re moving ahead and we’re not,” said Millar. “So Trump may have softened his stance, but we’re not moving ahead.”