Sub-national forum a hit with provinces

Government officials and businessmen in East China’s Zhejiang province have pledged to make the most of the China-US Governors Forum in Salt Lake City running from Thursday to Saturday. They are aiming for a positive outcome not only politically, but also economically.

“The forum builds a direct and effective communication platform between governors in the United States and provincial officials in China, which will surely strengthen the cooperation and communication between the two sides at a sub-national level,” Zhao Hongzhu, Party secretary of Zhejiang province, told China Daily. Zhao is the head of the Chinese delegation.

Zhao said the forum, the first of its kind, will serve as an important platform for “point-to-point” communication among government leaders in China and the US and help lift the partnership between the two countries to the next level.

Zhao’s team, which includes Zhejiang’s officials and entrepreneurs along with three other delegations from China’s Anhui, Yunnan and Qinghai provinces, will meet their US counterparts at the forum.

The event, in conjunction with annual US National Governors Association summer meeting, is part of an agreement President Hu Jintao made with US President Barack Obama during Hu’s visit to the US in January.

As China and the US continue to build stronger government-to-government ties, there is a growing awareness that increased cooperation at the sub-national level will strengthen their relationship and will be beneficial to both.

“Such sub-national level exchanges are fairly practical in helping US states and Chinese provinces meet each other’s needs and bring mutual economic benefits,” said Xie Yuan, director-general of the Department of American and Oceanian Affairs at the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, the forum’s co-host.

US states and Chinese local governments have established numerous cooperative relationships, from 36 sister provinces and states and 165 sister cities, to university exchanges, to partnerships on energy and the environment.

The Zhejiang government has worked with US states in the past. The province has tied the knot with two sister states, New Jersey and Indiana, and paired up with 32 cities in the US as sister cities.

The US is the largest export destination for Zhejiang province and ranks third in terms of imports. The trade volume between Zhejiang and the US has increased by an annual 21.4 percent on average over the past 10 years, reaching $36.57 billion in 2010, according to the Zhejiang government. Textile, clothing and automobile components are the major exports to the US.

Investors from the US are also major players in Zhejiang in terms of foreign investment. Around 90 companies from the Fortune 500 list have established their operations in the province, 23 of which are from the US.

Zhao said the forum is a chance to not only showcase investment projects in Zhejiang, but also push the deep-pocketed Zhejiang investors into the American market.

The coastal province is famous for its robust economy and its numerous privately owned companies. The annual GDP per capita in Zhejiang in 2010 was $7,500, the top in China. Around 70 percent of Zhejiang’s economy comes from the 650,000 privately owned companies.

Statistics from the Zhejiang Department of Commerce show that Zhejiang companies had invested nearly $6.3 billion in 2,300 projects in overseas markets in the past five years. The US ranks first in terms of the number of projects and is second by value of investments.

Nan Cunhui, chairman of the Leqing-headquartered CHINT Group Corporation, who is part of the Zhejiang delegation, is planning to write a billion-dollar check. Nan’s privately owned CHINT Group is a leading player in the low-voltage electrical industry and a pioneer in thin film solar photovoltaic (PV) industry in China.

He revealed that during his US trip, his company will sign a partnership agreement with a Missouri-based firm, which is a global leader in the manufacturing and sales of wafers and products related to the semiconductor and solar industries.

The pairing of the two companies is expected to push innovation of their solar PV products and cut production costs.

Apart from sales agencies in four states in the US, Nan’s company hasn’t set up any manufacturing factories on US soil. But, he said that he plans to invest 10 billion yuan on smart electric appliance projects and the construction of a new energy industrial park in the US.

Source: China Daily

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