China's trade with Texas taking off

Updated: 2014-10-10 13:10

By May Zhou in Houston(China Daily USA)

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China's trade with Texas taking off

Houston businessman Neil Bush (left) talks to Chinese Consul General Li Qiangmin at the Asian Chamber of Commerce's luncheon event on Thursday in Houston. May Zhou / China Daily

China is finding some Southern hospitality for business with the state of Texas.

"Houston, as a dynamic economic and business hub in the Southern US, will benefit from closer relations with China," said Li Qiangmin, Chinese consul general in Houston. "China's new round of opening-up and reform present the world with great opportunities."

Li spoke to more than 100 local business leaders on Thursday at a luncheon sponsored by the Asian Chamber of Commerce in Houston. The topic was China's economic development and what it means for China-US relations, and in particular, Houston and Texas. Introducing Li at the event was Neil Bush, the son and brother of two former US presidents.

Li said that trade between China and Texas in 2013 increased to $112.9 billion, with Texas exports alone to China exceeding $10.7 billion. Li said "there are at least 150 Chinese companies investing in my consular district with a total investment of over $15 billion".

Li listed some of China's vital economic stats: economic growth of 7.4 percent in the first half of 2014; a consumer price index rise kept at 2.3 percent; an unemployment rate around 5 percent in 31 major cities, and 9.7 million urban jobs created as of August.

"A bilateral investment treaty (BIT) between China and the US is on the fast track," Li said. "The first phase of BIT talks is likely to conclude soon, and substantive negotiations on the negative list will start immediately after that," Li said.

During Texas Governor Rick Perry's visit to China in early September, Texas signed a memorandum for collaboration in trade, investment and education with Tianjin, Shandong, Jiangsu, Fujian and Sichuan. "This will certainly boost cooperation between Texas and China," Li said.

But the relationship is not without difficulties. Li called for the US to treat investment from China equal to that from other countries. He said that trade restrictions imposed on China by the US and accusations against Chinese communication companies such as Huawei and ZTE that they couldn't be trusted with sensitive information have cost Chinese investors a lot of opportunities.

Bush, a Houston businessman who has been doing business with China for years, has seen many changes in China over the years.

"My first trip to China was in 1975, and China was very different," Bush recalled. "I got to see China break out as an economic power If every American could see that, they would all embrace the new China and welcome China to be a global citizen. I have been to China over 100 times, and every time I go there, I am happy to see the incremental progress."

Bush called himself a "huge advocate" of bilateral trade. "Business is no doubt the easiest direct path for building relationships," he said. "I think over time our two countries will become allies dealing with global challenges. I am very optimistic for the future of the relations."

John Paul Jourard, ambassador of the Asian Chamber of Commerce and manager of Crowne Plaza Suites in southwest Houston, near Chinatown, said his hotel has hosted an increasing number of Chinese visitors.

"We have hosted tourist group as well as professional groups from China - investors, people who come to look at the medical center or check out the real estate," Jourard said.