National Press Club

Chinese Shipping CEO Sees Expanded U.S.-China Trade, Economic Recovery

October 28, 2009 | By Bill Miller |

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Even though trade between the United States and China already has grown 130 times since the two countries established diplomatic relations 30 years ago, “the golden age is ahead of us” said Capt. Wei Jiafu, president and CEO of the Chinese Ocean Shipping Co. (COSCO), at an NPC Luncheon Oct. 26.

“Welcome to China,” said Wei in an appeal to U.S. companies to do business with his country. Visiting Washington as leader of a delegation of Chinese service-sector companies in his role as president of the Chinese Association of Trade in Service, he predicted that American firms “will have more opportunity to grow your business in China,” than ever before.

For one thing, said Wei, China is recovering from the global recession “faster than other countries.” The country's GDP grew 8.9% in the third quarter, he said, noting that China “passed the lowest point” in its recession in March. He forecast an average Chinese growth rate of 8% for the year.

Wei cited China’s stimulus plan for its economy, along with similar plans in the United State and Europe, as improving the global outlook for recovery. He predicted a return to worldwide growth in the next year or two.

But Wei criticized the recent Obama administration decision to levy a 35% tariff on Chinese-made tires exported to the U.S. "Frankly, this is not a sensible way to resolve trade disputes," Wei said. He called the tariff "a measure of protectionism that will eventually harm American consumers and tire-related sectors."

Answering questions without a translator (although one was standing by to repeat audience questions), Wei said that the global recovery will be led by consumer demand. "Buy new toys, buy new clothes for Christmas gifts,” he urged the audience, to laughter.

Asked to list mistakes U.S. companies make in doing business in China, Wei said they often fail “to respect local laws” and to build trust with local authorities. As for China companies in America? Most “don’t understand American culture,” he said.

His government-owned company, COSCO, one of the world’s largest container shipping companies, has long been involved in U.S.-China trade. Although the company has suffered during the recession – profit was down more than half in the first half of the current fiscal year – he forecast a better year ahead. “The market is getting back,” he said. Then he added, “COSCO is here for you.”