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Consul General Hong Lei: Chinese Enterprises in the US Midwest are Making Positive Contributions to the Revitalization of Local Economies

Consul General Hong Lei gave an interview to China Daily USA at the consulate recently. Following is a report by the newspaper based on the interview:

Chicago booms with Chinese investment

The Chinese Consulate General in Chicago is making an effort to boost economic and trade cooperation in the US Midwest.

Direct investment by China in the US reached $15 billion in 2015, with almost 13,000 jobs created.

According to the 2015 IBM Global Location Trends report, the Chicago metropolitan area leads the US in foreign direct investment (FDI) for the third year in a row. The report also noted that FDI in Chicago created 4,800 jobs, the second- highest number among all US metropolitan areas.

From 2000 to 2015, Chicago has attracted total investment of more than $3 billion from China.

"Chinese investment has made a great contribution in creating jobs and increasing tax revenue, which plays quite a positive role in boosting the local economy," said Hong Lei, China's consul general in Chicago, who took office in July.

The Chinese Consulate General in Chicago covers nine states, most of which are in the Midwest: Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.

Hong has visited all nine states and said he is glad to see the relationship between the consular region and China is strong, and that exchanges and cooperation on the economy, trade, culture and education have yielded substantial results.

In 2010, China Aviation Automotive Systems Holdings Ltd (AVIC) completed the acquisition of Nexteer Automotive in Michigan by taking a 100 percent stake jointly with PCM China.

After the acquisition, Nexteer shares were successfully listed in Hong Kong in 2013. The employee ranks have increased from 3,000 at the time of acquisition to 5,000. Factory output is also expanding.

Hong affirmed the growth of Nexteer during his visit to the company in August. He said Nexteer has made a contribution to the economic development of Michigan, and it demonstrates the mutual benefit and win-win scenario of Sino-US economic and trade cooperation.

In November, Hong visited Nanshan America (an aluminum casting and extrusion facility in Lafayette, Indiana), which was a greenfield investment made by China in 2011.

The company has since provided more than 200 jobs in the state.

"I have met several American workers in their plants, and they told me they really enjoy working in the plant," Hong said.

Hong said Chinese enterprises in the Midwest are making positive contributions to the revitalization of local economies.

"In recent years, China's capital market is relatively vibrant, which is positive in going out. And the US is just an important foreign investment destination, whether for greenfield investment or mergers and acquisitions.

"So the overall trend is moving forward," said Hong, a former Foreign Ministry spokesman and deputy director general of the Department of Information.

Many Chinese enterprises made investments in the automobile industry in Michigan, building auto parts factories or technology innovation centers.

Hong said small- and medium-sized enterprises in the US Midwest have a strong interest in economic and trade cooperation with China. The problem is sometimes their capital is limited, so the challenge is how to grab good opportunities and operate business in China within their capacity.

Online channels have created a favorable condition to further open up the situation.

The Chicago Consulate General is now actively promoting the building of an online platform for trade and investment communication, so the two sides can communicate directly online, which promotes mutual understanding and reduces travel costs, he explained.

Hong repeatedly pointed out the significance of the Mechanism of Joint Working Group for Trade and Investment Cooperation between Chinese provinces and US states in boosting subnational economic and trade cooperation.

Since being set up in 2012 by China's Ministry of Commerce, the mechanism has been established in 25 provinces and cities in China and seven states and cities in the US, covering California, Chicago, Iowa, Texas, Michigan, Washington state and New York.

"The cooperation mechanism is designed to give play to the initiative of subnational cooperation, to take advantage of their resources to strengthen trade and investment cooperation between China and the US," said Hong

"Any states or cities interested in this mechanism, we sincerely invite them to participate in it, to benefit from it," said Hong.

"Subnational cooperation is a driver of China-US relations," Hong added.

China-US trade hit $569 billion last year, and China now is the biggest trading partner of the US and also its fastest-growing export market.

Hong said that if any problems arise, the two sides should resolve them through rational communication and consultation.

Hong said that because bilateral relations now have a good foundation, it's necessary to continuously serve the common interests of both nations to provide more benefits for citizens. (By Hong Xiao and Zhang Yuan in Chicago, China Daily USA 11/25/2016 page1)

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