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Obama Says Business Ties Crucial to China Relations

U.S. President Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama stands in front of a Chinese flag as he listens to Chinese President Hu Jintao, unseen, speak during an arrival ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama said deeper relationships between businesses in the U.S. and China are crucial to progress in ties between the two governments.

Speaking as he and President Hu Jintao met with 14 U.S. business executives and four Chinese corporate leaders, Obama said he wanted to foster a growing trade relationship with China and open the Chinese market to American companies.

“Our goal here today was to make sure that we break out of the old stereotypes that somehow China is simply taking manufacturing jobs and taking advantage of low wages,” Obama said. “The relationship is much more complex than that, and it has much more potential than that.”

Obama said the U.S. can more than double exports to China, which were about $100 billion last year. Hu said through a translator that China is focusing on domestic demand and consumer spending as its economy evolves. He also promised that China would treat U.S. companies fairly when doing business there.

“It all feels very, very good that you asked us to be a partner,” Jim McNerney, chief executive officer of Boeing Co. said to Hu at the start of the session.

Executives Invited

Along with McNerney, the meeting convened by the administration brought together CEOs Steve Ballmer of Microsoft Corp., Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman, General Electric Co.’s Jeffrey Immelt, Westinghouse Electric Corp. CEO Aris Candris; Sybase Inc. chief executive John Chen; Coca-Cola Co. chief executive Muhtar Kent; DuPont Co. CEO Ellen J. Kullman; Greg Page, CEO of Cargill Inc.; John Thornton, chairman of HSBC Holdings Plc’s North American division; David Rubenstein, co-founder and managing director of Carlyle Group; Paul Otellini, Intel Corp. CEO; and Dow Chemical Co. CEO Andrew Liveris.

The Chinese executives were Lu Guanqiu, chairman of Hangzhou-based Wanxiang Group; Lenovo Group Ltd. chairman Liu Chuanzhi; Lou Jiwei, chairman of the China Investment Corp.; and Haier Group Corp. chief executive Zhang Ruimin.

McNerney called the dialogue “candid” and “constructive.”

Chen, of Dublin, California-based software maker Sybase, a unit of SAP AG, said before the meeting that he planned to raise his desire for a bilateral investment treaty that would give U.S. companies greater access to Chinese markets and for greater protection for intellectual property rights.

Software Resellers

Chen said in an interview today that he is interested in investing in Chinese software resellers to establish a more direct line to buyers there and compete with Chinese firms, and is working on such agreements for SAP.

‘We always perceive that we’re not getting an invitation to markets over there,” he said.

Motorola’s Brown also cited the copyright issue, saying that companies want to see intellectual property protections pushed into the provinces.

“China’s a very lucrative and attractive market and there’s more than ample opportunity to find common ground,” he said.

Before of the meeting, the two countries announced a package of export deals worth $45 billion, including a $19 billion purchase of Boeing Co. aircraft, and an agreement by China to require its state agencies to use legal software, a provision sought by software makers like Microsoft. Most of the export agreements had been in the works well before Hu’s arrival. The 200-jet orders for Boeing were placed from 2007 to 2010, the company said, and got final approval from China in conjunction with Hu’s visit.

Trade Missions

Of the new export deals, $25 billion is the result of Chinese trade missions in the past few weeks, spread over 70 contracts and 12 states, covering everything from agriculture and computers to telecommunications, auto parts, software chemicals and other products. Other companies that have reached export agreements include Caterpillar Inc., Cummins Inc. and General Electric Co.

The itinerary for Hu’s U.S. visit reflects the importance both countries place on their economic ties. It also meshes with Obama’s goal of boosting exports to spur job growth. Still, the relationship, marked by more than $400 billion in annual trade, is complicated by disagreements on issues as varied as human rights, China’s enforcement of intellectual property rights and what U.S. officials say is the artificially low value of China’s currency.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kate Andersen Brower in Washington at; Nicholas Johnston in Washington at;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at

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