USCBC’s Shanghai Office held its annual China Operations (CHOPs) conference in Shanghai on the fringes of the 2nd annual China International Import Expo (CIIE) on Friday, November 8. The event featured a strong lineup of speakers covering a range of issues, including US and Chinese perspectives on US-China relations, business leaders’ perspectives on the China market, the view from Washington on export controls, tariff mitigation strategies, the corporate social credit system, and the state of China’s economy.
On the theme of US-China relations, speakers from the United States and China both shared an upbeat message that, despite the current pessimistic mood permeating the relationship, the current challenges are not insurmountable. We have experienced highs and lows in our bilateral ties in the past, and our business communities have been the anchors holding the relationship together. This message was corroborated during our panel of member company China presidents who share an overwhelmingly positive view of the opportunities still present in the China market.
This year, the program featured speakers covering topics of top interest to companies with operations in China, including:
- Export controls: Kyle Sullivan, China Practice Lead at Crumpton Group, provided an overview of company risks from export controls imposed by the United States on sales to the China market, including the expansion of the US Entities List. It was emphasized the 14 “emerging technologies” and their licensing requirements expected to be finalized this year, and are a possible risk for companies selling in the emerging technologies space that have sales in China. FIRRMA is currently in the process of defining “emerging and foundational technologies” and is expected to go into effect by February 13, 2020. Companies should make sure their senior management is aware of the risks and possible impact on business should the US adopt more broad controls.
- Social credit system: Kendra Shaefer, Partner at Trivium, provided an overview of China’s developing social credit system and the implications for businesses operating and selling in China. The goal of the program is to come up with a central database to share compliance information and company records—this is called the National Credit Information Sharing Platform (NCISP). This will be a complete list of records from regulators such as Customs, environmental regulators, courts, etc. A risk for companies is that with the sharing of compliance and behavior among regulators, violation with one regulator could lead other regulators making operating more difficult for a company. The most important action for companies is to make sure existing records with regulators are correct.
- Economy and business environment: Dr. Steven Cochrane, Chief APAC Economist, Moody’s Analytics and Dr. Weisen Li, Professor in Economics at Fudan University, shared insights on China’s economy and economic outlook. China is seeing an impact from the US-China trade escalation on economic growth and exports. If there is an escalation in tariffs, there is higher possibility of more significant impact to the US and China economies. US companies continue to have a long-term positive outlook on growth prospects in China, and senior executives from major US companies noted diversification, focus on a “China for China” model, and communication with regulators are all key for long-term success in the China market.
- Supply chain: Tony Tong, Continuous Improvement Manager Asia at AutoZone and Harry Zhang, VP and Greater China Practices Leader at Sandler, Travel & Rosenberg, Limited, shared practical insights about how companies are impacted by tariffs and how they can reduce the impact on their business. Supply chain experts see the US-China trade conflict as a long-term issue that will bring more complexity to supply chains as some suppliers move out of China and others stay, leading to more decentralized supply chains. Regardless of whether a company is in the US or China there are options to apply for tariff exclusions and exemptions. During this process it is important to be comprehensive and present a case for the product’s lack of alternative substitutes and demonstrate the economic and societal impact that would be incurred by having the product tariffed.
For a full list of program speakers, please see the program speaker list here.
Beyond CHOPs, over 40 USCBC member companies attended the CIIE as part of a 192-American-company contingent. The US exhibitors comprised the largest number of country representatives exhibiting at CIIE of any other country, and an 18 percent increase over last year’s attendance. This underscores the long-term commitment that US companies are making to the China market, regardless of broader government tensions.
Get a wrapup on the conference from USCBC's VP for China Operations, Matt Margulies: