US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with the US-China Business Council’s (USCBC) board of directors during its June 2 meeting at the Library of Congress. Geithner spoke on the results of the previous week’s Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) in Beijing and prospects for key economic and commercial issues. Geithner highlighted that China’s indigenous innovation and government procurement policies were an important part of the S&ED discussions and that US industry had captured the PRC government’s attention on these issues. He also stressed the S&ED’s importance in supporting global economic recovery by coordinating macroeconomic policies. In addition, the board of directors met with China’s new ambassador to the United States Zhang Yesui, who also spoke on S&ED results and bilateral trade relations.
USCBC’s board elected Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola Co., as chair and elected three officers. USCBC member companies re-elected 10 current directors for three-year terms and welcomed four new board members. For USCBC’s complete board list, see www.uschina.org.
USCBC Holds 37th Annual Membership Meeting in Washington
US-China Business Council (USCBC) members gathered for the organization’s 37th Annual Membership Meeting in Washington, DC, on June 1. Leading China political analyst Harry Harding kicked off the event with a look at the current state of US-China relations, noting that some recent frictions between the United States and China have passed and the bilateral relationship has stabilized—but that some tensions are inevitable. He predicted that over the next few years, the most likely flashpoints in the relationship would be tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan’s election in 2012, and China’s own leadership succession that year.
Pieter Bottelier, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and a former World Bank director in Beijing, presented on China’s economy, stressing that China’s stimulus package has been effective and that the government has begun to pull back from credit-driven stimulus. He also stated that challenges for policymakers include housing bubbles in some local markets in China, inflation, low export demand, and protectionism abroad and in China.
Julie Walton, USCBC’s chief representative in Shanghai, gave a preview of PRC economic development policies in the next five years and commercial implications for US companies (see China’s Priorities for the Next Five Years). Walton encouraged companies to examine PRC pronouncements, catalogues, and plans to find opportunities to show that foreign companies can help China achieve its goals.
Monica Debiak, associate at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP, updated the audience on recent developments surrounding collective bargaining, unionization, and other human resources developments in China. Of particular note, China’s unionization drive appears to be picking up again as China’s economy pulls out of the recession, and employee claims against companies, especially for overtime, are rising. Debiak predicted that in the near future, labor disputes and pressure to unionize will rise, and multinational corporations will face increased media scrutiny.
Wrapping up the afternoon was a briefing on the results of the previous week’s Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) in Beijing from a panel of US government officials who participated: David Loevinger, executive secretary and senior coordinator for China affairs and the S&ED at the Department of the Treasury; Derek Chollet, principal deputy director of the secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff; and David Shear, deputy assistant secretary for East Asian Affairs at the Department of State. The panelists stressed the S&ED’s value in setting the agenda for other bilateral discussions and in engaging with senior PRC officials who do not interact frequently in international settings. Panelists also provided insights into discussions of key topics such as China’s innovation and procurement policies, the US and PRC economic recoveries, the European debt crisis, and current tensions with North Korea.