Officials and business leaders from the US state of California are taking matters into their own hands after the US federal government launched a trade war with China, sending a delegation of dozens of business leaders to China to seek business and to send a message to Washington that the state is against the trade war.
Positioning itself as the only government entity from the US to have a booth at the ongoing China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, the delegation is calling for the end of the trade war, which has seen rising barriers for businesses.
"Our response to the trade war has been the focus of the state of California. And the leadership of California with Governor Jerry Brown has come out and said, you know, we still want to do business with China. We don't believe the trade war is the best way forward," Del Christensen, chief of global business development at the Bay Area Council, told the Global Times.
Christensen was leading the delegation of nearly 40 Californian business leaders to Beijing and Shanghai. The delegation was organized by the Bay Area Council, a business group representing hundreds of companies in Northern California's Bay Area, and the California Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development.
The delegation attended a business forum in Beijing last weekend before departing for the CIIE in Shanghai with a message that California is open for business with China, despite the trade war launched by the US federal government.
"Our message is really that at the sub-national level, business must still continue to grow," Christensen said. "The market in China is too big and is growing too fast for any global company to ignore."
At the CIIE in Shanghai, a major initiative from China to expand imports of goods and services, the presence of the state of California is sending a message to Washington, according to Christensen. "We disagree with the tariffs. We don't like trade wars. That's why we are here," he said.
California has been hit hard by the US-China trade war, as many of its products from cars and wine to nuts have been affected by Chinese tariffs imposed in response to US tariffs on Chinese goods.
California has the largest volume of trade with China among all the US states. In 2017, the state's trade with China reached $175.6 billion, accounting for 27.6 percent of the US' total trade with China, according to official data. In the same year, California's exports to China reached $16.43 billion, or 12.6 percent of the US total.
"I think companies are starting to feel the impact… they're starting to see some significant revenue losses over that," Christensen said.
John Grubb, chief operating officer at the Bay Area Council, added that the organization is advocating for the end of the trade war.
"Our members have told us that they want less barriers to trade, not more barriers to trade," Grubb told the Global Times during the interview. "We would like to see the tariffs reduced and the tension reduced between the two countries."
Grubb said the group has met with officials at the White House and the US Trade Representative's Office to express its opposition to the trade war.
California passed legislation in August urging President Donald Trump and the US Congress to support actions that further strengthen trade with China.