Oakland officials return from China trip to boost trade
on May 21, 2011
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan didn’t know that Facebook is blocked by the Chinese government until she tried to post news about her trade mission from there, Quan told a number of reporters in a press briefing on Friday afternoon. “That’s the most interesting thing I learned,” said Quan about her six-day, three-stop trade promotion trip with Oakland port officials to China, which started on May 6.
Quan also said the trip would help bring Chinese investment to Oakland. She believes that by visiting as Oakland’s mayor—along with City Council President Larry Reid—their visit sent a signal that the city is very serious about its relationship with Chinese traders. “They’re very close to considering building cold storage facilities because of the exports of food and wine to China,” Quan said.
“This has probably been the most fruitful trip,” said Reid at the briefing, and said that he has been on various missions to China before. During an interview on Wednesday with Oakland North, Reid said one of the biggest achievements of their trip was being involved in discussions about creating the first direct flight to Oakland from China, or specifically the city of Shenzhen, a major port in southern China and the country’s fourth largest city in terms of gross domestic product. According to Quan, the delegation met on May 8 with one of the chairs of HNA Group in Beijing, an investment company that owns Hainan airlines, the fourth largest air companies in China, along with many hotels and logistic companies.
Although Reid said it will still take a load of work to achieve such a goal, “the city is going to be blessed” because of the tourism that a direct flight would attract. “San Francisco is not the only city that tourists can fly into,” said Reid, who considers Oakland’s food and Chinese community of major appeal to Chinese tourists.
“The port has never really been on a business mission to Beijing, especially not one with airport, seaport, and city leadership together,” said Isaac Kos-Read, director of external affairs for the Port of Oakland, who was also a member of the delegation to China. (A previous trip in 2001 was more focused on acquiring a panda for the Oakland Zoo.) Kos-Read said it’s beneficial to establish certain relationships with officials in Beijing since Chinese businesses who “want to make a major investment or partner in a major way with the Port of Oakland, ultimately will have to work through approvals with the central government.”
Kos-Read said that while in Beijing the Oakland delegation gave members of the HNA Group a three-hour presentation about the city and its port and were invited to have dinner with the company leaders, during which more business discussions continued.
“They [the HNA Group] see Oakland more as a logistic hub, not only a seaport, ” Kos-Read said, adding that Oakland’s airport and railway system make the city a multimodal port.
Kos-Read said that increasing the trade value of the port will create thousands of jobs and generate more tax revenue. According to the statistics he provided, $462.7 million in state and local taxes were generated by activity at the city’s seaport and airport last year, roughly one third of which went to local and county governments.
The Oakland delegation also met with Baolin Ge, the founder of the America Asia Trade Promotion Association (AATPA), an organization based in Santa Clara, California with a branch in Beijing. Jim Huang, an AATPA board member, told Oakland North that they’re working with the city to invest in a expo center in Oakland for top-quality Chinese products as a way to promote exports from China.
Huang said the AATPA is already operating two such centers in the Chinese cities of Tianjin and Shenzhen and is looking for its foothold in the U.S. “Oakland is our most important candidate,” Huang said. “There’s a big space for development at the port of Oakland.”
Huang added that the Chinese centers are open to U.S. brands to promote sales, too.
Between stops in Beijing and Hong Kong, the delegation landed in Shenzhen and met with its vice mayor Wen Zhang and toured the Shekou container terminal, Kos-Read said, which has an operation model similar to the one that the Oakland port wants to use to develop the city’s former Army base.
“We actually talked about all development sites available in the city; we went to sell the whole package,” Quan said on Friday, adding that as China’s capital grows, more and more investments will be made in the U.S. “We’d like a share of those,” she said.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is giving a presentation to The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of Lawrence Ng, U.S. Consulate Hong Kong.
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