Investors investigate prospects in export-seeking Alabama

Updated: 2012-10-05 11:53

By Tan Yingzi in Washington (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

 Investors investigate prospects in export-seeking Alabama

The Alabama-China Partnership, established in 2011 to promote ties between China and the US, wrapped up a two-day investment seminar in Monroeville, Alabama, on Sept 27. Provided to China Daily

As part of their exploration of the US investment landscape, 150 or so Chinese business leaders gathered for a two-day conference in tiny Monroeville, Alabama.

The Sept 26-27 Alabama-China Partnership symposium offered the owners of small and medium-size Chinese enterprises a chance to learn about the United States and Monroeville's business climate.

Addressing Chinese guests at the symposium, US Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, said he welcomed investment from their country. China's prosperity is important to the US and the world, he added.

As more Chinese companies go global, many states have been vying to attract Chinese capital in hopes of creating jobs, even as the US economic recovery putters along and nationwide unemployment remains an unusually high 8.1 percent.

In Alabama, joblessness rose for four straight months through August and is now above the US average at 8.5 percent.

The nonprofit, public-private Alabama-China Partnership was set up in 2011 to promote diplomatic and trade ties between China and the United States, particularly the Southern state. Since its formation, the partnership has conducted many trade missions, seminars, media tours and, in March, a spring symposium after which the just-ended fall version was modeled.

"Most of Chinese investors get to know the United States by visiting its big coastal cities. However, international investment in North America over the past 20 years has increasingly focused on small and moderate-size communities in the Southeast," said Raymond Cheng, CEO of the partnership and of SoZo Group, a consulting firm based in Hong Kong.

He finds that the 14-state region offers "many opportunities", especially for foreign manufacturers considering expansion into the US market.

In addition to being competitive in the cost of doing business and boasting low taxes, Southern states offer companies' "right to work" laws that allow companies to hire and fire without the influence of labor unions, Cheng said.

Some states provide tax breaks to encourage high-quality foreign investment. Alabama, for example, provides a tax credit that can be transferred and thus offset an investing company's cost incurred from the imposition of anti-dumping tariffs by the US government.

Last March, Golden Dragon Copper Tube Co announced plans to build a $100 million tube-making plant in Thomasville, Alabama, in what will be the biggest Chinese investments in the state. The project is expected to employ as many as 500 people eventually.

Other speakers at last week's symposium included Ken Davies, former Hong Kong bureau chief for the Economist Intelligence Unit; Consumptionomics author Chandran Nair; and former US diplomat Nicholas Platt, who served as president of the Asia Society in New York.

According to the US-China Business Council, China is Alabama's No 2 foreign market, eclipsed only by Canada. Between 2000 and 2011, the state saw growth in exports to China of 1,342 percent while its goods sold to the rest of the world increased by 118 percent. Alabama's main exports to China are transportation equipment, chemicals, crops, waste and scrap, and paper products.