California-China trade group gets a boost
Diane Long, director of California China Trade and Investment Office, made the rounds this week in a series of events targeting San Francisco-based small- to mediumsized businesses that want to get in on the booming Chinese market.
“I look forward to the opportunity to build and expand a bridge between California and China,” she said in a speech before the Bay Area Council on Wednesday night.
The office is California’s flagship vehicle for promoting trade and investment between the US and China, she said.
“I think the opportunity for this office is to leverage our experience to work and collaborate with you, so we can do even more,” she said.
She also spoke at a workshop on Thursday with another group of small- and medium-sized firms about the challenges and opportunities of entering the Chinese market.
Re-opened on April 12, 2013, the California China Office is a public- private program led by the Bay Area Council, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, and economic development groups and private sector companies across California.
Jim Wunderman, the president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, said the office offers matchmaking and advice for US entrepreneurs interested in expanding into China by arranging and hosting customized delegation trips to China, tailored according to the makeup of the group.
Also, he said, helping Chinese businesses get a foothold and prosper in California will fuel billion-dollar trade flows, create jobs and attract more funding to get new projects off the ground.
“This is a special year for China as the country has new leadership and a lot of reform and progress has been made this year,” Xia Xiang, the economic and commercial counselor of the Consulate General of China in San Francisco, said on Wednesday.
The year has seen tremendous improvement in trade relations between the two sides, and investment from China into the US skyrocket in volume, especially to the West Coast, he added.
“Understanding each other’s needs will require continued dialogue, patience and open minds,” said Tempe Reichardt, managing director of Left Bank LLC, who is interested in expanding market reach for top California wines sold in China and was seeking advice from Long at the Wednesday night event.
“We in the wine industry are extremely concerned about intellectual property rights and worry that wine is a commodity that is very vulnerable to being copied, with cheap or tainted wine bottled in China to look like the real thing and risk causing serious damage to brand identity,” she said.
On “the well deserved concern over a US company being able to protect its intellectual property in China, I would say that China has made strides forward in recent years,” said John Curson, managing partner at Approach Partners, which works on mergers and acquisitions between Chinese and US companies.
He said the most important global relationship in the 21st century is between China and the US, and the opportunities will present themselves in many ways, as long as Americans travel to China, and Chinese travel to the US.
“My own experience, when I traveled to China with Mayor Lee in October,” he said, “was that we are two peoples who understand and enjoy business.”
“Over the past five years, China has developed a larger middle class and great technical talent. The US however must now compete with 30 other national competitors,” said William Lee, the former San Francisco city administrator.
“My biggest concern is Americans don’t understand the regional and ethnic differences of the Chinese population and specific cultures,” he said.
e north, south, east and west of China have different ways of marketing to different needs and incomes, he said.
“Selling products in Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangdong would be different than Wuhan or Changsha,” he said.
The new state office in China under Diane Long, he said, is experienced on China and Jerry Brown understands the Chinese probably better than any other governor in the US.
Diane E. Long (right), executive director of California-China Office of Trade and Investment, talks to the local business community in San Francisco on Wednesday about her efforts in China. From left: Kish Rijan, director of the Office of Governor Brown; Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council.