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US-China trade ties in focus at gathering

Both nations should strive to maintain business relations, sector insiders say

By BELINDA ROBINSON in New York | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-25 08:40

The United States and China must strive to maintain their crucial trade relationship, as it is "vital" for the success of both large and small businesses worldwide, according to attendees of the Canton Fair conference in New York.

The promotional conference, held in Manhattan on Wednesday, welcomed representatives from the Chinese Consulate General in New York and the China Foreign Trade Centre, which organized the fair, along with Bank of China representatives and small and large global importers and exporters.

Hu Wei, president and CEO of the Bank of China US, told China Daily the conference enables business leaders from both countries to "gather and promote trade and investment to China and from China". He said it was "really a testimony of the intertwined business relationship, which is so important".

"Unfortunately, we do see some of the changes of back and forth recently (between the US and China)," he said. "We do believe that the two governments can solve them properly to provide a level field for both sides and to provide an acceptable atmosphere for business, so that we can have more opportunities for both sides."

The Bank of China is working with businesses at the fair to provide a range of investments.

Big Lots Stores, a US discount retail chain, has worked with Chinese manufacturers for more than 30 years.

Kevin Kuehl, senior vice-president and general merchandise manager of home, apparel and global sourcing at Big Lots, first visited the Canton Fair in the 1990s.

"We still have long-term partnerships with our factories in China and those partnerships go anywhere between 20 and 30 years," he told China Daily.

"The political situation regarding trade doesn't typically come into the conversation because we work as a business group and we continue to stay very close in that aspect."

Kuehl cautioned that the company, like many others, is monitoring whether any additional US tariffs on China will be enacted. If so, he said Big Lots will have to "make adjustments to be thoughtful on how we present bargains to our customers".

The chain buys furniture, home textiles, pet products, outdoor patio furniture and other goods from China. It recently opened a buying office in Shanghai.

Kuehl acknowledged that while the last couple of years had been challenging, having overseas partners was very important.

"There are certain categories that China just is very efficient and cost-effective at, that even if we wanted to transition products out of China and into other countries, we're not capable of capacity or quality in those categories," he said. "We will continue to partner with China in categories that we know are critically important, and cost is important to our customers."

Yao Wenliang, economic and commercial counselor for the Chinese Consulate General in New York, told China Daily that the conference was "a very good opportunity" because China and the US economies are closely intertwined.

"It's vital, as there's great opportunities for both business communities, so this is a platform," Yao said.

Chinese Consul General in New York Huang Ping said the fair showed China's strong commitment to opening its market to the world. He said decoupling was not an option, as the two countries "need each other".

Mike Carpenter, who works for the Global Sourcing Group in the US, said he visited the fair in China seven or eight times before the COVID-19 pandemic and described it as "fantastic" and "absolutely huge".

"If you go there trying to find, for example, a factory that makes pens, you'll have 5,000 choices," he said.

The Canton Fair takes place twice a year in Guangzhou and focuses on technology, production and other industries exporting from China. The next fair is scheduled to be held in October.

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