US business leaders advocate strong US-China trade relationship

By AMY HE in New York | | Updated: 2017-04-15 04:38

US President Donald Trump should realize that having a strong trade relationship with China is about American jobs and not putting those jobs in jeopardy, business leaders said in a discussion about China-US business ties.

"Trade is amazingly important to maintaining the US-China relationship. Having an appropriate and strong trade relationship with China is about American jobs," said Ellen Kullman, former CEO of US chemical company DuPont, on Wednesday evening at an event organized by the National Committee on US-China Relations. The committee is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization that encourages understanding and cooperation between the US and China.

Certain trade processes are being held up now because China "wants to make sure they have enough chips that when the horse race starts on trade, they've got enough to offer that it comes out in the right place, because they understand that President Trump is negotiating," she said.

This may be due to Trump's rhetoric on trade historically not being "very positive, and I think it is amazingly important that that come out at the right place for both countries," she said.

Kullman said that her former company was responsible for creating jobs in the US and in China. As both markets grew and became unique, she said, job creation became "more of an ‘and' equation" where DuPont added jobs to both countries.

Olivier Brandicourt, CEO of French pharmaceutical company Sanofi, said that the US could see China as a threat because the country is becoming powerful, or it can view it the way the pharmaceutical industry does, which is as a market of opportunity.

He said that China's aging population needs healthcare that the pharmaceutical industry sees its role to bring about a healthcare revolution in China.

"All of that opens up to huge opportunities, so I would encourage trading rules and partnerships to be enhanced in the future," he said.

Peter Cohen, chairman and CEO of New York-based financial services firm Cowen Group — which last month sold a 20 percent stake to CEFC China Energy, a Chinese energy and finance company — said that while he agreed with the other two participants' views, he thinks the US government needs to do some housekeeping before it can tackle foreign trade priorities.

"The bureaucracy that's imbedded in Washington just doesn't permit things to happen," he said. "Go fix all the parts you need fixing, and then get focused on how to make things work with China."

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