From trade port to innovation hub, Guangzhou eyes more investment from US companies

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-03-16 10:11

WASHINGTON - Undergoing a transformation into an international hub of innovation from a traditional trade port, the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou is seeking out US companies for investment.

"We encourage US multinational companies to invest in Guangzhou, which is a well-known business-friendly city," Cai Chaolin, vice mayor of Guangzhou, said Tuesday during a roadshow for the 2017 Fortune Global Forum to be held in Guangzhou in early December.

In an address to US officials and business leaders in Washington DC, Cai introduced Guangzhou's initiatives of developing a technology innovation hub, which is expected to bring new business opportunities for US companies coming to the city.

As part of the efforts to enhance cooperation in technology innovation between Guangzhou and the United States, Cai also announced the set-up of Guangzhou's liaison offices in Boston and Silicon Valley, two famous innovation centers in the Eastern and Western coasts of the United States.

"We want to know what's happening in these innovation centers," Cai told Xinhua, adding that the two offices would help Guangzhou gather innovation resources and high-end talents around the world so as to establish its own innovation hub.

Nina Easton, co-chair of Fortune Global Forum and chair of Fortune Most Powerful Women International, said at the same event that Guangzhou, China's southern gateway to the world, is the ideal location for the 2017 Fortune Global Forum with the theme of "Openness and Innovation: Shaping the Global Economy" .

"As a center of international trade for many centuries, Guangzhou is both a renowned symbol and a modern manifestation of China's participation in global commerce," Easton said, noting that the city has become "highly attractive" to multinational companies due to initiatives launched by the municipal government to facilitate investment and trade, its strategic position on the Maritime Silk Road as well as its participation in the free trade zone of Guangdong Province.

"More than half of Fortune Global 500 companies have already made investments or set up operations in Guangzhou, with the potential to continue expansion," Easton said.

Henry Levine, senior advisor at leading US consulting firm Albright Stonebridge Group, said he was very impressed by the central role of South China in general, Guangzhou in particular, has played as a leader in openness, innovation, and creating a dynamic economy over the past 30 years.

Citing a recent business survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in South China, Levine, who used to work at the US Department of Commerce, said 80 percent of US companies regarded the business climate in the region as "good" or "very good," and 60 percent of them chose to make their headquarters in Guangzhou.

As the first witness to the start of Sino-US trade, Guangzhou also has important implications for today's China-US trade relations.

In 1784, a merchant vessel named the Empress of China set off from New York Harbor, loaded with American Ginseng, leather and cotton, arrived in Guangzhou after a six-month journey, and took home tea, chinaware and silk, opening a brand new chapter in China-US bilateral trade. Today, Guangzhou has trade relations with about 200 countries in the world.

"Guangzhou is a successful example in the world that has put resources together to bring jobs and economic opportunities," said Dan Glickman, a former US Congressman and former agriculture secretary under Bill Clinton.

Glickman said the United States should not blame other countries for its trade concerns and jobs displacement, as technology, globalization, education and other factors are also related to changes in the US job market.

He also noted that the United States has to work closely with China in tackling various issues, as the world's two largest economies have common interests ranging from security to the environment.

"The US-China relationship is extremely important. Look back the US presidents and Congress over the last 50 years...there has been a steady progress in the relationship with China," he said.

As Chinese policymakers have put forward an ambitious policy agenda with more openness and economic reforms, Levine believed implementation of those reforms would not only help stabilize China's economic growth, but also reduce the investment and trade frictions between the United States and China.

Tian Deyou, economic and commercial minister counselor at the Embassy of China in the United States, hoped the two countries could continue keeping a healthy and stable economic relationship going forward.

The two sides should not resort to a trade war but seek the common objective of win-win cooperation, he added.

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