Corporate leaders meet with Obama, Hu on exports
Several of this country's most powerful corporate leaders met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and President Obama at the White House on Wednesday to discuss increasing U.S. exports to China in order to support more American jobs.
The show of corporate might -- which included Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs and Jeff Immelt of General Electric -- reflected the intense focus during Hu's state visit on the economic relationship between China and the United States.
Just before the summit, the White House announced a slew of deals between the United States and China that officials said will provide $45 billion of U.S. exports.
"From machinery to software, from aviation to agriculture, these deals will support some 235,000 American jobs," Obama said after the business meeting. "And that includes many manufacturing jobs, so this is great news for America's workers."
GE said Wednesday that it plans to sign $2 billion worth of agreements with Chinese partners this week that will result in more than $1 billion in exports. The ventures will be in clean energy, aviation and rail transportation.
The agreements also included the sale of $19 billion worth of Boeing aircraft. And American Electric Power signed an agreement with China Huaneng Group, China's largest power generation company, to develop carbon-capture technology.
Other chief executives at the summit included Intel's Paul Otellini, Dupont's Ellen Kullman and Carlyle Group's David Rubenstein. A handful of Chinese business leaders also attended, including Lenovo's Liu Chuanzhi and Haier's Zhang Ruimin.
"[Business leaders] pointed out that China is one of the top markets for U.S. exports," Obama said. "In fact, our exports to China are growing nearly twice as fast as to the rest of the world, making it a key part of our goal of doubling exports."
Yet the leaders of some U.S. multinationals have grumbled in the past that the Chinese government has sometimes been hostile to American businesses as they seek to enter China to drive their growth. Obama said he has relayed this concern to Hu, stressing "there has to be a level playing field."
Eswar Shanker Prasad, who teaches trade policy at Cornell University, said the $45 billion worth of trade deals was a "sizable" amount. Yet the more important question is whether China will open its markets significantly. So far, Prasad said, the Chinese have been very selective about which U.S. companies it will do business with, preferring firms that can teach them technology they can later use to help their domestic industries.
"The firms that get access to the Chinese market are the firms where the Chinese see some significant benefits," Prasad said.
U.S. business leaders have expressed concerns that China doesn't go far enough to enforce intellectual property laws. Obama relayed later that during the meeting with Hu, Microsoft's Ballmer told the leaders that only one in 10 of Microsoft users in China have paid for the company's product.
Jia Lynn Yang
| January 19, 2011; 2:11 PM ET
Categories: China, Corporations, International Economics, Trade, White House
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