Chinese ambassador addresses Tampa chamber
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12/06/07 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

China’s Deputy Ambassador to the United States spoke at a meeting about doing business with his country at the University of Tampa today.

Zheng Zeguang spoke about China’s economy and environment to an audience of 40 from the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

Zheng, whose official title is Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the U.S., said his country faces three major challenges.

“Number one is the environment. We’re confronted with these pollution issues. Number two is the shortage of energy. Now, the self-sufficient rate in China’s energy need is about 94 percent. But 74 pecent of our energy comes from coal and we have to figure out how we can reduce the pollution because of the burning of coal and we have to develop other ways to meet our energy needs -- renewable and new types of energy.”

Zheng said the third challenge to his country is wealth disparities among Chinese people, with 300 million relatively affluent residents, mostly in cities or the eastern part of the country, and one billion residents near poverty.

China supports the Kyoto Protocol, Zheng said, but "unfortunately [it] was not put into real practice because of lack of support." China favors "differentiated responsibility when it comes to the climate change and global warming issue," according to Zheng, which is where developed countries have a greater responsibility to reduce carbon dioxide pollution than developing countries.

“Because if we look at the CO2 in the air, a high percentage of it has come from developed economies. And we believe that developed economies are in a better position in terms of resources that they can give and actions they can take. For developing countries, we have a different responsibility, but we have a common goal. And developing countries also have to take up their responsibilities.”

China owns hundreds of billions of dollars worth of U.S. Treasury bonds and there is concern that they will try to sell a large portion of them for either political reasons or because of the tanking U.S. economy and growing debt. The U.S. imports billions of dollars more per year from China than it exports. Zheng said this trade imbalance is not good for either country.

“We have to figure out what is the best way to bring bilateral trade to a more balanced situation. Of course there have been proposals about levying additional surcharge or tariffs against goods coming from China. We believe that is not the right way to address the issue. The right way to address the issue [is] to expand U.S. exports to China. Because the market of China itself is growing so rapidly.”

Americans had been concerned that the yuan, the unit of Chinese currency, had been undervalued, but Zheng said that should no longer be an issue.

“They’re saying the Chinese currency is undervalued. It used to be pegged to the U.S. dollar only, but now it is readjusted to a basket of currencies as a result of currency reform. And our goal is to make our currency fully convertible and we believe that we are on well on schedule. The value of our currency has appreciated since last July by 11.6 percent already.”

Zheng was asked whether American consumers had lost faith in products made in China in light of recent food and toy recalls because of health and safety concerns.

“Well, I think that the absolute majority of American consumers are much more mature than just to say that there’s a case of recalls of all products coming from China are dangerous. I don’t think that is the case ... Because according to statistics, people are still buying good products from China, whether it is toys, whether it is clothes. And I think the most important thing is the two governments are working together/ Chinese and American governments are working closely together trying to solve these problems.”

Learn more:

Embassy of the People’s Republic of China

Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce

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