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The U.S.-China Economic Relationship: An American Business Perspective



September 22, 2009: Mr. J. Nor Coquillard, Mr. Benjamin Kinnas, Mr. Charles McElwee, Mr. Jeffrey Bernstein, Ms. Brenda Foster, and Mr. Jeremie Waterman

The U.S.-China Economic Relationship: An American Business Perspective

(Washington D.C.) September 22– Despite the global economic downturn, the trade and financial relationship between the United States and China is still strong and opportunities are growing on both sides of the Pacific. In an East-West Center in Washington Asia Pacific Political Economy seminar, Mr. J. Nor Coquillard, chairman and president of Cargill Investments (China) Ltd.; Mr. Benjamin Kinnas, managing director, general manager, and Asia trade finance manager at Wachovia Bank (Shanghai); Mr. Charles McElwee, counsel at Squire, Sanders and Dempsey LLP (Shanghai Office); and Mr. Jeffrey Bernstein, founder and managing director at Emerge Logistics (Shanghai) Co., Ltd, discussed the U.S.-China economic relationship from a business perspective, highlighting the general business climate in China and the opportunities for the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and Greentech industries in China. Ms. Brenda L. Foster, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, and Mr. Jeremie Waterman, senior director, greater China, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hosted the seminar.

U.S. exports to China have grown enormously since 2000 and continue to increase even with the current global downturn. Mr. Coquillard argued that this trade relationship will be very important as both countries move toward a recovery in the coming months. He highlighted the Chinese stimulus package, which has led to new construction projects and an increase of financial capital. Further, he noted that Chinese consumer spending continues to rise, especially in the purchase of technology products. Despite these positive signs for U.S. activities, a lack of transparency in China continues to hamper the entrepreneurial efforts of American businesses, and there are still remaining trade barriers. Nonetheless, Mr. Coquillard explained that most American businesses in China are optimistic about the opportunities that can be found there, opportunities that will hopefully help the United States climb out of the recent recession.

Environmental cooperation between Chinese and American businesses is increasing, and will lead to greater interaction between the two countries, both economically and socially. Mr. McElwee explained that Chinese leaders have recently pledged to further reforestation efforts, increase energy efficiency, reduce harmful emissions, and generate more energy from renewable sources in the coming years. Mr. McElwee argued that this environmental campaign provides great opportunities for Chinese and American businesses, non-governmental organizations, and government agencies to work together to assist China in meeting its environmental goals.

An important facet of improving economic cooperation between China and the United States, however, focuses on lowering the barriers that still exist for American companies trying to work in the country. The speakers pointed out that lack of transparency, difficulties in investing in Chinese markets, and trade barriers continue to hamper the efforts of American entrepreneurs. Mr. Kinnas specifically detailed the problems that foreign companies operating in China have in securing financing for their endeavors, and the difficulties they have in accessing Chinese financial markets. He further noted that banking regulations in China are still being developed, though they have improved greatly in the last few years. Mr. Bernstein explained that these difficulties are particularly felt by SMEs who compete with small enterprises not just from the United States but from other countries that may have developed better economic relationships with China. The speakers agreed, however, that these issues can be dealt with and that the economic relationship between China and the United States will only continue to deepen in the coming years.

J. Nor Coquillard is the country representative for Cargill in China where he also manages the Corporate Affairs function. In addition to his current role as Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, Mr. Coquillard served as an officer of the Chamber in 2003, 2004 and 2007. In his current capacity as Chairman and President of Cargill Investments (China), he supervises the Corporate Affairs function, consisting of government affairs, media relations and corporate responsibility functions. His long-term relationship with Cargill dates back to the management of operations in Japan and Korea from 1984. Since arriving in China in 1998, he has been awarded the Silver Magnolia Award (2002) by the Shanghai City Government.

Brenda L. Foster , a nationally and internationally respected expert in Asian Affairs, is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, the Pacific Council on International Policy, the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, the Asia Society and the U.S. Committee on the Council for Security Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific. Prior to her current position of President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, she was the President & CEO of ULU Group, Ltd, a firm specializing in emerging technologies in the Asia-Pacific region. She had also held the positions of Executive Advisor to the Governor of Hawaii for International and National Affairs, Director of the State of Hawaii’s Office of International Relations and Executive Director of Hawaii’s World Affairs Council.

Jeffrey Bernstein is the Founder & Managing Director of Emerge Logistics (Shanghai) Co., Ltd, a U.S. invested and Shanghai based company with three major businesses: Logistics, Distribution and Consulting. The company’s mission has always been to aid U.S. companies that aim to penetrate the China market and establish distribution channels. With over a decade’s experience of living in China, Mr. Bernstein has been honored with the Magnolia Silver Award (2007) from the Shanghai Municipal Government for his significant contributions to the local community. He is particularly focused on cross-city exchange between the U.S. and China, having been instrumental in the development of partnerships between Shanghai and New York (e.g. The Fifth Avenue Association and the Nanjing Road Commercial Association) and having founded the Ohio China Center on behalf of the State of Ohio, in 2006. Mr. Bernstein has a long association with the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, having served as Chairman of the Board in 2005 and 2006.

Benjamin H. Kinnas is Managing Director & General Manager of Wachovia Bank's Shanghai branch. An experienced emerging markets banker with over 20 years of regional experience, he has been based in Shanghai for the past 4 years. With a banking career that dates back to 1982, his expertise lies in deregulation, liberalization, sovereign debt and trade facility restructuring. He currently serves as Vice-Chair of AmCham Shanghai’s Financial Services committee, where he has led the working groups that authored the commercial banking section of every AmCham white paper since 2005. In addition to being an active member of the Shanghai Bankers Association, he is also a member of the World Affairs Council.  

Charles McElwee has been practicing environmental and energy law for more than 20 years, at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey L.L.P. Representing a wide range of clients in the U.S. and China, his experience lies in fields such as structuring carbon trades, NOx and SO2 allowance trade agreements, structuring energy and cleantech project deals, performing environmental due diligence and pursuing and defending environmental claims in U.S. courts. He is listed as the only China-based lawyer in the International Who’s Who of Environment Lawyers 2009. His experience as a Professor of Law at Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University and ongoing role as an advisor to the Chinese government on environmental law reform, led to his receiving the highest honor bestowed on foreigners by the City of Shanghai in 2008 - the Magnolia Award.

Jeremie O. Waterman is Senior Director, Greater China, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., where he is responsible for developing and executing U.S. Chamber programs and policy relating to U.S. trade and investment in the Greater China region. Mr. Waterman works extensively with member companies, state and local chambers of commerce, business coalitions, American Chambers of Commerce abroad, and the U.S. and foreign governments. Prior to joining the U.S. Chamber, Mr. Waterman worked for over five years at The US-China Business Council, most recently as the Council's Director for Government Affairs. Previously, Mr. Waterman worked at Office of the United States Trade Representative as a Trade Policy Analyst and Congressional Affairs Specialist from 1997 to 1999. He also worked for the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, and the Economic Strategy Institute in Washington, D.C.

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