Leaders from US and China seek common ground in Kentucky

Governors’ Collaboration Summit attempts to deepen US-China links despite trade war

Alltech president and CEO Mark Lyons played a supporting role in bringing the sides together in Kentucky

Alltech president and CEO Mark Lyons played a supporting role in bringing the sides together in Kentucky

 

US governors and Chinese business and political leaders meeting in Kentucky have vowed to deepen business and trade links despite a trade war between the two countries deepening this week.

Organisers of the fifth annual US-China Governors’ Collaboration Summit say they hope the gathering furthers political and economic interests between the countries “at the subnational level”.

The summit – supported by Alltech, the animal feeds and agtech company founded by Dundalk entrepreneur Pearse Lyons and now run by his son Mark – took place as ties between Washington and Beijing worsen over a trade dispute. It was seen by participating US state-level politicians as an attempt to move past the dispute fuelled by president Donald Trump’s tariffs regime.

The US this month increased levies on $250 billion (€224 billion) worth of Chinese goods from 10 to 25 per cent after Washington claimed China sought to make major changes to a deal it says had been largely agreed on.

Intellectual property theft

China insists on a trade agreement that reflects a “50-50” deal and responded by imposing tariffs on 5,000 US products. The US is pushing for terms that favour its own companies, as it believes China has been engaged in intellectual property theft. The most recent round of talks ended without agreement on May 10th.

The Lexington summit is organised by the bipartisan National Governors Association, a powerful lobby group, and the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC). Among the influential political and industry leaders in attendance are China’s ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, Tang Liangzhi, the mayor of Chongqing, one of China’s largest cities, and Xu Chen, the CEO of Bank of China USA.

Representing the US at the summit are the governors of Kentucky and Tennessee, and vice and lieutenant governors from Washington state, Michigan and Colorado.

Magnesium

The two-day meeting saw the announcement of a new joint venture that will see 24,000 tonnes of Chinese magnesium exported to the US.

Questions put to the CPAFFC on whether tariff-related issues were discussed at the summit went unanswered, but the Chinese view is that president Trump’s criticisms of China have been made for the benefit of “political needs at home”, a foreign ministry spokesperson said.

We recognise that the vital commercial relationship between our two nations is complex and always evolving

Representatives of the US delegation also refused to comment on specific trade issues but said continuing ties are important.

“On the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China, we recognise that the vital commercial relationship between our two nations is complex and always evolving. We also recognise that the terms of that relationship are set by the national governments in Washington and Beijing,” said a spokesperson for the National Governors Association.

Supporting role

Mark Lyons of Alltech played a supporting role in bringing the sides together in Kentucky. The company is headquartered outside Lexington and Dr Lyons previously spent six years working in China.

At the Alltech ONE19 ideas conference in Lexington, held from May 19th to 21st, he told reporters it was his view that getting a trade deal could take some time.

“The way of negotiating is very different in the countries. I was pretty optimistic that this would be all wrapped up [by now]; I don’t think that’s going to happen quickly. [However], there are some things changing that would give me some optimism on the agriculture side,” he said.

Before the trade dispute devolved early last year, China bought 17 per cent of US agricultural exports.