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Dallas woos Chinese businesses
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They may seem as different as Peking duck and rib-eye steak, but China and Dallas, Texas have a lot in common. Both are expanding economically despite difficult times in surrounding regions. China is growing much faster than its Asian neighbors, while Dallas has been hurt less than other cities by the US economic slowdown.

And both China and Dallas are reaching across the globe for new trade opportunities.

Karl Zavitkovsky, director of the Dallas Office of Economic Development, said the city has sent delegations to 21 Chinese cities in the past three years to find trade opportunities.

They have focused on smaller cities with populations of 7 to 10 million people. "Dallas isn't as well known as New York or Los Angeles to the Chinese. Cities like Tianjin or Shenzhen aren't well known to Americans. There are unlimited trade opportunities between cities like these that aren't being tapped right now," Zavitkovsky said.

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert led a trade mission to China in April. Leppert, a former business executive, said trade with China is essential to his city's survival. "We can no longer afford to think of business on just a national scale, or even limit our efforts to this hemisphere," Leppert said. "For Dallas to prosper, we must all compete on a global scale for a global economy."

Leppert is pushing direct flights to Dallas. He wants to bring more Chinese tourists to the city, to turn it into an inland port for Chinese goods and to encourage Chinese companies to move their US headquarters to the city.

ZTE Telecom is one company that's taken his advice and shifted its US office to the Texan capital. The Chinese telecommunications operator has revenue of US$8 billion a year in the US. Leppert expects that to triple in the next year.

"Dallas is offering generous tax incentives for Chinese companies to establish warehouses and distribution centers here," Kavitkovsky said. "We expect it to create 60,000 jobs in the Dallas area over the next 20 years."

Texas has a burgeoning tech sector that's fighting hard to compete with China. Getting China to spend more money in Dallas would also go a long way toward decreasing the US trade deficit that is blamed for the loss of American jobs. "Jobs displacement exceeded 2 percent of total employment in Texas," according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The city's universities are rising to the challenge. Last November, the University of Texas opened the first Confucius Institute in the state, to teach US students about Chinese culture and language. Gu Mingdong, the institute's director, said demand for the classes has more than doubled in the past few months.

(China Daily September 9, 2008)

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