China Dispatches Trade Mission to New Jersey Amid U.S. Criticism

China sent more than 30 corporate executives to New Jersey to seek trade and investment deals, as complaints grew in the U.S. of discrimination against American companies.

Huawei Technologies Co., China’s largest phone-equipment maker; ZTE Corp., the second-largest; and Yabao Pharmaceutical Group Co. were among companies whose executives visited Trenton yesterday with Wang Chao, China’s vice minister of Commerce.

“We are ready to share with all countries and companies the benefits of opening up,” Wang said at a luncheon at Trenton’s War Memorial. “We have showed the openness and inclusiveness of the Chinese market.”

Wang’s trip followed a surge in complaints from members of Congress and President Barack Obama’s administration this week that China is using its currency and trade policies to discriminate against U.S. manufacturers. Democratic lawmakers such as Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon called for legislation that would allow higher duties on imports to compensate for the effect of a weak Chinese yuan.

The trade mission of pharmaceutical, technology and energy executives also visited universities, and company executives headed to Atlantic City last night. They have more events scheduled in Boston today.

China accounts for 30 percent of the traffic at the Port of New York and New Jersey. Yesterday, New Jersey announced it will post its first overseas investment officials, one in Shanghai and the other in London. New Jersey is trying to lure Chinese executives to set up plants or offices in the state, said Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno.

‘Bring Business In’

“The only way to put people back to work is to bring business in,” Guadagno, a Republican, said in an interview after the luncheon. “Small businesses and large businesses understand that.”

Among U.S. companies meeting with their Chinese counterparts were Merck & Co., based in Whitehouse Station; Campbell Soup Co., based in Camden; and United Parcel Service Inc. of Atlanta, the world’s largest package-delivery company.

In testimony before Congress Sept. 16, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said China forced companies to invest in the country and transfer their technology there if they hoped to sell to the world’s most populous nation.

“Now, for many reasons we find that untenable, and we want to deter them from pursuing that and change that strategy,” Geithner said. Companies working in China “are reluctant to be associated with aggressive use of U.S. trade laws because of fear the Chinese will retaliate against them.”

WTO Complaints

The U.S. also filed two complaints against China at the World Trade Organization on Sept. 15, one on payment-processing companies and the other on steel duties.

Lawmakers and analysts said in testimony this week that changing China’s currency policies is the key to reducing the $227 billion trade deficit the U.S. has with China.

After lawmakers fought off a proposed bid by Cnooc Ltd. to buy U.S. oil-producer Unocal Corp. in 2005 and prepared separate legislation against Chinese imports, China announced it would buy 50 jets from Chicago-based Boeing Co., a deal worth $6 billion.

This year, the companies are seeking longer-term business ties, said Zhang Yujing, president of the Chinese trade group that organized the trip, the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery.

“We have come here to enhance cooperation,” Zhang said in an interview. There had been no new agreements signed as of early this afternoon, “but as you can see everyone is networking, and hopefully we will have some soon.”

Zhang came armed with complaints of his own, saying U.S. national-security restrictions prevented some Chinese companies from merging with American firms.

“We hope the U.S. will create a better environment for Chinese investment,” he said.

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