Global Times US Edition - - BIZCOMMENT - By Wang Cong

It could not have been a more dra­matic shift in the bi­lat­eral eco­nomic and trade re­la­tion­ship be­tween China and the US. Just a few months ago, China and the US were en­gaged in a war of words on trade that led some ob­servers to pre­dict a trade con­flict was im­mi­nent. A few months later, af­ter a state visit by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to China, US business lead­ers are declar­ing that now is the great­est time for business be­tween the two coun­tries than it has been in years.

“The time is now if you want to do business with China. You bet­ter pack your bag and get over here and talk to peo­ple,” Fred Wacker, owner of Cross Four Ranch in Mon­tana, said in a re­cent in­ter­view in Beijing with the Global Times.

“I re­ally be­lieve the re­la­tion­ship on trade be­tween our two coun­tries is at a higher point than it has been in years and years,” said Wacker, who also serves on the board of direc­tors of the Mon­tana Stock­grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion. The as­so­ci­a­tion signed a deal worth $300 mil­lion with Chi­nese e-com­merce giant Inc for beef im­ports and in­vest­ment dur­ing Trump’s visit to Beijing last week.

The Mon­tana rancher said the business en­vi­ron­ment be­tween China and the US has im­proved due to Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s and Trump’s shared fo­cus on eco­nomic and trade co­op­er­a­tion rather than “po­lit­i­cal stuff.”

Business over pol­i­tics

In­deed, dur­ing Trump’s two-day visit, the two coun­tries were fo­cused pri­mar­ily on business deals rather than “usual, petty po­lit­i­cal dis­putes that we have seen in past vis­its by some US pres­i­dents,” Jiang Yong, a re­search fel­low at the China In­sti­tute of Con­tem­po­rary International Re­la­tions, told the Global Times on Mon­day.

Dur­ing the trip, Chi­nese and Amer­i­can com­pa­nies inked 34 business agree­ments and mem­o­randa of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s state visit to China, which sparked business deals worth more than $250 bil­lion, has laid out a pos­i­tive path for fu­ture Sino-US business co­op­er­a­tion – one that will fo­cus on trade rather than po­lit­i­cal dis­putes. How­ever, volatil­i­ties will per­sist within the bi­lat­eral trade re­la­tion­ship due to lin­ger­ing dif­fer­ences. un­der­stand­ing worth a to­tal of $253.5 bil­lion, span­ning a wide range of sec­tors in­clud­ing en­ergy, agri­cul­ture and in­fra­struc­ture, ac­cord­ing to China’s Min­istry of Com­merce on Thurs­day.

In a state­ment, the min­istry de­scribed Trump’s visit as “fruit­ful” and said that the “his­tor­i­cal meet­ing be­tween the lead­ers of the two coun­tries could of­fer strate­gic guid­ance for the sound de­vel­op­ment of the bi­lat­eral eco­nomic and trade re­la­tion­ship.”

It added that China is will­ing to fur­ther fo­cus on eco­nomic and trade co­op­er­a­tion with the US and ex­pand other ar­eas of co­op­er­a­tion.

The US Depart­ment of Com­merce, which led a US del­e­ga­tion of 29 lead­ers of some of the largest US com­pa­nies to China, also said in a state­ment on Thurs­day that the deals could form a solid foun­da­tion for a stronger over­all China-US re­la­tion­ship.

Jiang said that the deals, though some of them were long in the mak­ing, could not have been pos­si­ble if the two sides had not fos­tered a pos­i­tive tone and demon­strated their will­ing­ness to work to­gether re­gard­less of any dif­fer­ences they may have.

“These are great deals for US com­pa­nies and they could def­i­nitely add points to Trump’s per­for­mance as the US pres­i­dent,” he said, adding there is still room and will­ing­ness from both sides to work to­gether “if they con­tinue to fo­cus on trade.”

“So what we can draw from this trip is that Trump is more in­ter­ested in eco­nomic in­ter­ests un­like past US pres­i­dents, who wanted to pur­sue both eco­nomic in­ter­ests and po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests,” Jiang said. “Trade is some­thing China can work on with the US be­cause, ob­vi­ously, China doesn’t want any­body to come here and crit­i­cize the way our coun­try is run, but if you want to do business, we can talk.”

Wacker also said that the two lead­ers should fo­cus on trade. ‘‘The one thing that I re­ally feel is that a pres­i­dent of the United States or a pres­i­dent of China should not go to an­other lead­ing na­tion and trad­ing part­ner and tell them how they should run their po­lit­i­cal business.”

“The two pres­i­dents are talk­ing trade and talk­ing business and they are not try­ing to hold each other up,” Wacker con­tin­ued.

Bet­ter en­vi­ron­ment

Such a pos­i­tive dy­namic be­tween US and Chi­nese of­fi­cials can cre­ate a much bet­ter en­vi­ron­ment for business co­op­er­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to Zhao Li, co-founder and pres­i­dent of China Iowa Group, which is based in Iowa and also rep­re­sents the Iowa-head­quar­tered Stine Seed Co in China.

“This is a very special, his­toric mo­ment… our two gov­ern­ments very much hope to en­hance eco­nomic and trade co­op­er­a­tion, so I think this is such a great op­por­tu­nity,” Zhao, who was also part of the US CEO del­e­ga­tion to China, told the Global Times.

“We hope, un­der such an en­vi­ron­ment, we can im­prove our co­op­er­a­tion with [Chi­nese] com­pa­nies,” she said, adding that agri­cul­tural trade has gained much at­ten­tion from both Chi­nese and US gov­ern­ments.

Stine Seed signed a deal with Beijing W. Seed worth $10 mil­lion dur­ing the visit, ac­cord­ing to the US Depart­ment of Com­merce.

Jim Miller, pres­i­dent of the US Soy­bean Ex­port Coun­cil (USSEC), also said that the visit of­fered a chance for the two lead­ers to ad­dress dif­fer­ences and avoid con­fronta­tion.

“It’s an op­por­tu­nity for them to work out those dif­fer­ences… and not have any re­tal­i­a­tions of any kind against any­body and to move for­ward and make us stronger trad­ing part­ners,” Miller, who was also part of the US CEO del­e­ga­tion to China, told the Global Times.

The USSEC signed a $3.4 bil­lion deal with the China Cham­ber of Com­merce for Im­port and Ex­port of Food­stuffs, Na­tive Pro­duce and An­i­mal By-prod­ucts on soy­bean im­ports dur­ing the visit. Miller added the US soy­bean in­dus­try is now see­ing even more growth po­ten­tial in China.

Fu­ture volatil­ity

How­ever, Jiang said that, although the China-US re­la­tion­ship will see more business co­op­er­a­tion un­der Trump, fu­ture volatil­i­ties are ex­pected.

“With this trip, we do feel that we have passed a storm, but it’s not go­ing to be all sun­shine here­after,” he said. “There will def­i­nitely be some dis­putes ahead.”

Shane Ted­jarati, pres­i­dent of Honey­well Global High Growth Re­gions, said, although Trump’s visit was a “special” one that helped build re­la­tions and con­fi­dence be­tween the two coun­tries, it will not fix ev­ery­thing.

“Let’s be re­al­is­tic, one visit doesn’t do ev­ery­thing,” Ted­jarati told the Global Times, not­ing that more can be done on both sides to en­sure mar­ket ac­cess and bal­anced trade.

“We need to be very thought­ful in mak­ing sure Chi­nese com­pa­nies have very good ac­cess to the US mar­ket and that Amer­i­can com­pa­nies have very good ac­cess to the Chi­nese mar­ket. So on both sides, I think there is more that can be done,” he said.

Honey­well, which gen­er­ated a $2.4 bil­lion rev­enue in China in 2016, signed two sep­a­rate agree­ments dur­ing the visit, one with China’s Ori­en­tal En­ergy Co and one with Spring Air­lines, to al­low the US com­pany to fur­ther sup­ply its prod­ucts.

Photo: IC

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