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Houston prefers trade flow over trade war

By May Zhou in Houston | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-04-09 13:40

Houston officials and business leaders, speaking during a gathering of Chinese and American real estate professionals, said they favor a trade relationship over a trade war with China.

More than 80 members of a delegation from China came to exchange ideas and explore investment opportunities with their US counterparts on Friday.

US Congressman Al Green told the Chinese delegation members that he was especially appreciative of their presence.

"You have the potential to bridge the chasm between the two great nations," he said, in reference to the ongoing tariff back-and-forth.

"This relationship is one that will not only develop the business relationship for the citizens for both nations, but also to develop stability that we need in the world."

Green said: "We have all been talking about tariffs and a trade war. I want you to know that I don't favor tariffs; I don't favor a trade war. I favor opportunities for us to do business together. The world needs a good relationship between the US and China."

Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, said that the Houston business sector is reluctant to endorse the actions taken by the Trump administration.

Houston's trade with China reached $18.8 billion in 2017, with imports at $10 billion. A forecast suggests Houston would have a positive trade balance with China in the next few years due to expected exports of liquefied natural gas and petrochemical products to China.

Petrochemical products such as plastic are on China's second list for potential tariffs.

Harvey said that some ethylene plants were built with an eye toward China's markets.

Another economic risk to Houston is the potential loss of energy projects, which often are valued in the billions of dollars.

"We are making the investment decisions today," Harvey said. "This makes it very hard for people to move forward with major investments in the current climate. Projects that are gaining momentum, conversations that are moving toward conclusion, now people are putting the discussions on hold.

"We have to remember that China does not have to import energy products from the US or Texas. China can import from Australia or the Mideast. The market is up for grabs," he said.

Harvey said that technology transfer and intellectual property are major issues that have to be addressed. To resolve them, both nations need to approach each other with respect, sit down at the table and negotiate.

"There is a way that is productive, and there is a way that is not productive. We would like to see things move toward a more productive track," Harvey said.

"China is not afraid of a trade war, but only cooperation leads to win-win for both nations. We hope for beneficial negotiations," said Li Qiangmin, consul general of China in Houston.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said that the size of the Chinese delegation speaks to the relationship Texas' largest city has established with China.

Turner, who led a 70-plus delegation to China last December, told summit attendants that he is "looking forward to leading an even larger delegation back to China in the very near future".

The fourth biennial America-China Real Estate Summit will continue onto Seattle and Vancouver. Liu Zhifeng, president of the China Real Estate Association (CREA), led the delegation from China. The event was co-organized by CREA and the Asian Real Estate Association of America.

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