Toledo pursues business ties with ‘Sister City’ in ChinaWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
China appears to be the latest destination of choice for American business and corporations for making foreign investments in commercial and industrial economic development. Toledo has a unique relationship with Qinhuangdao, its “Sister City” in China, which could lead to business and trade for both sides.
Since 1985 when Qinhuangdao and Toledo entered into the Sister City relationship, the two cities have forged a friendship through cultural and educational exchanges. In recent years, the exchanges have expanded into other areas including business, the economy, public health and tourism.
“Qinhuangdao is a new, rising industrial city that is appropriate for businessmen to launch their endeavors,” said Jian Ruiting, the Chinese city’s mayor. “Qinhuangdao has great potential for development and is filled with many business opportunities.”
“The four port-related industries — namely machinery, manufacturing, metal rolling, food, glass, and oil processing — have systematically formed. Some new industries, such as electronics, heavy equipment manufacturing and port logistics are rising rapidly,” Ruiting said.
Ruiting said Qinhuangdao and Toledo are economically interrelated and complement each other. He feels cooperation in the fields of glassware, automobile manufacturing, auto parts manufacturing, and tool-and-die making are most promising.
While visiting Toledo in May, Ruiting and his delegation toured the Libbey glass manufacturing plant and the Kuka Group’s Toledo Paint Facility for Chrysler’s Jeep plants. Those visits made Ruiting realize the glass and auto industries in Toledo are technically strong.
‘The investment presentations made by Toledo City and Lucas County made us learn that Toledo and Lucas County have a series of potential projects for Qinhuangdao businesses,” Ruiting said in his letter to Toledo officials following the trip.
While Qinhuangdao expects Toledo businesses to launch endeavors with its good investment environment, Ruiting plans to encourage his country’s outstanding enterprises to make investments in Toledo.
“We will build a convenient platform to facilitate communications and exchanges between our businesses. With our friendship as a foundation, I believe we can create a win-win future with our common efforts,” Ruiting said.
Qinhuangdao, a city of 2.8 million people, is located about 160 miles east of Beijing in Hebei Province on the Gulf of Chihli. It is located at the center of the Rim-Bohai Sea Economic Circle, known as the Third Growth Pole of China.
Popularly known as the “Coastal Park of the Great Wall,” Qinhuangdao is a famous summer resort and a dynamic coastal city.
Toledo currently enjoys longstanding relations with China as evidenced by its 22-year Sister City relationship with Qinhuangdao, said Toledo City Councilman Mark Sobczak, who chairs the council’s economic development committee.
China currently has an estimated $1.4 trillion to invest elsewhere in the world, Sobczak said. According to the World Investment Report, China increased its outward investment from $1.8 billion in 2004 to $11.3 billion in 2005. By 2020, China is expected to be the leading outward investor in the world with $880 billion of investments.
“It’s important that these relationships be established with our partners in China,” Sobczak said. “We can’t walk away from the opportunity to get some of that outward investment. The government controls the business in China, but the private sector is the driver of their economic growth.”
“The Chinese will welcome American investment there, too,” said Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop, who lead a delegation of about 50 civic and business leaders who visited Qinhuangdao in April.
“The mayors have discretion over direct investments in their regions, almost acting like venture capitalists,” Konop said. “The mayor of Qinhuangdao is head of a large regional government much like that of Lucas County.”
Qinhuangdao is planning a trade mission to Toledo in early October. Business and industry leaders from the city are looking to conduct exchanges with their counterparts in Toledo.
The Chinese want to investigate Toledo’s flange industry, real estate business, energy-saving products, ceramic and hollow bricks, auto parts industry, and intelligent instrumentation and controls.
“The Chinese are behind us in tech-based portions of the manufacturing sector. They need our expertise in that area,” Sobczak said.
The delegation will include the executive vice director of the Qinhuangdao Chamber of Commerce and the vice director of the Business Invitation Bureau of Qinhuangdao Economic and Technological Development Zone. The presidents of local companies involved in the auto industry, energy saving, cement products, solar energy, photoelectric technology and real estate development are among the delegation coming to Toledo.
“We need to find matching partners for this business delegation to talk to them face-to-face, conduct site tours and possibly negotiate real deals,” said Hewen Slak, chairperson of the Chinese Association of Greater Toledo that will host the delegation.
Qinhuangdao wants to establish an office in Toledo and use it as a gateway to launch its North American operations and have a Toledo office and representative there, Slak said. Her goal is to be the spokesperson for Toledo in Qinhuangdao as Ruiting has already asked her to represent that city here.
Slak said she wants to bring investments both ways. A native of Taiwan, she has lived in the United States for 30 years and earned a master’s of business administration degree from UT.
There has been increasing interest and activity in promoting business and trade between local companies in Northwest Ohio and China since a visit by a delegation from Shenyang in July 2006, said Jiquan Chen, president of the local Chinese Association.
However, both Konop and Sobczak expressed some concerns about environmental, human rights and labors issues with China. That country faces environmental challenges due to the enormous growth of industry as well as dealing with child labor, long hours and low pay for workers. Most recently, product safety issues, specifically lead paint in millions of toys sold in the United States, have given Chinese labor practices a black eye.
For example, Sobczak thinks China needs to strengthen its labor and environmental regulations. Konop said he was surprised by the alarming amount of air pollution on his visit to China.