Spotlight: Los Angeles attracts foreign investment with cooperative business ecosystem
Last Updated: 2018-10-31 14:18 | Xinhua
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Stephen Cheung, president of the World Trade Center Los Angeles (WTCLA), sees Los Angeles (LA) as a vibrant, trillion-dollar business hub uniquely suited to fostering cross-border enterprises with powerful trading partners like China.

"LA has a tremendous business ecosystem for foreign companies to prosper in. But when most people think of LA, they only think of Hollywood. In reality, LA is the 15th largest economy in the world, roughly on par with Mexico," he told Xinhua during a recent interview.

The WTCLA, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the LA County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), provides business assistance to international companies seeking to start or expand operations in LA, and to local companies seeking to export products and services to the international market.

According to Cheung, it is not just the entertainment industry that is raking it in. "New technologies like autonomous vehicles, electric-charging stations, drone technology, sensor technology have all built their businesses in LA too."

He attributed much of LA's success in attracting foreign investment to the supportive infrastructure and collaborative, innovation-oriented business ecosystem that the city and county of LA has developed.

"A lot of people look at LA as a center of innovation and we are delighted by that reputation, but it didn't come easily or overnight. We had to put a lot of effective policies in place that could attract businesses to settle here," he said.

When asked what made LA so successful at attracting foreign investment, Cheung said that "bringing the private and public sectors together effectively is our 'secret sauce' of success."

"It's very difficult for governments to entice businesses on their own. They need to work together with non-profits and private companies to create what's needed and most wanted by the private sector."

"A strong talent pool, a thriving private sector, funding sources, and government policies that genuinely support businesses," he said.

Many new technologies spin out from universities, he said, adding that LA is blessed with 118 educational institutions and is the only region in the United States to boast three top universities: California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech), University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and University of Southern California (USC).

Cheung said that while having all that didn't guarantee success, it created a far better opportunity and conducive environment for companies to thrive in.

When talking about China, LA's largest trading partner, he said that one of the most successful strategies China has deployed to attract foreign investment and boost its economy is the "Going Out" policy, which encourages a lot of Chinese companies to go global by opening up new operations in the United States and other countries around the world.

Adapting to the local business climates outside China allows Chinese companies to learn new business practices, new ways of doing things and, in Cheung's analysis, has even transformed how Chinese companies do business in China.

"It's become more standardized. Foreign companies are more used to that transactional style and familiar foundations make transactions and market entry easier."

When it came to attracting foreign investment, Cheung said that the most potent arrow that China had in its strategic quiver was the Belt and Road Initiative.

He said this is enticing to foreign companies because it provides them not only with access to China's huge number of consumers, but to the Belt and Road countries as well.

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