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LA optimistic about Chinese investment

By LIU YINMENG in Los Angeles | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-05-30 22:49
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Despite the trade standoff between China and the US, the organizers of a top international trade event in the Los Angeles said they hope to attract more Chinese investment in an area that has long enjoyed a friendly relationship with China.

"It certainly can be a distraction at the national level, but I think that's why it's all the more important for Chinese companies to recognize friendly environments like Los Angeles that have a history of working with Chinese companies, and a long history of welcoming Chinese people as residents," said Steve Olson, chair of World Trade Center Los Angeles.

"I think events like Select LA are all the more important, because they show that at the state level, and at the local level, this investment from China is being welcomed," he added.

The 2019 Select LA Investment Summit, organized by World Trade Center Los Angeles, is an international trade event that aims to attract foreign direct investment to Southern California through panel discussions and networking events that address market trends and opportunities.

This year's summit, from June 5-6, will bring together numerous global investors, business representatives and government leaders for topics such as investment opportunities in mega-events, esports (competitive multiplayer video gaming, as well as in Los Angeles' future transportation network, its organizer said.

"This is our fifth year doing this summit now, so every year we have a huge focus on our partnership with China, and this is no difference," said Stephen Cheung, president of World Trade Center Los Angeles.

He expects the total attendees to number around 450, who are coming from 25-30 countries, at this year's summit. An average of 40-50 Chinese companies usually come to the event every year, based on statistics from the past four years, Cheung said.

A lot of the Chinese companies understand that when they enter the US market, Los Angeles is their top destination, he said.

"Regardless of what's happening on the national level, LA has always shown that we are leading the way, because we are open for business, and we want to make sure that these partnerships are strong from a subnational level," Cheung added.

The Select LA program is a spinoff of the SelectUSA program, which started under the Obama administration in 2011 and seeks to create high-quality jobs in the nation by attracting investment from foreign companies.

Olson, founding executive director of SelectUSA, helped develop the national program and brought the LA program to fruition.

He said Chinese attendees accounted for three-quarters of the audiences at the inaugural LA program in 2015. In addition, at least "a couple hundreds" of the Chinese investors showed up at the event last year.

"I think as a percentage, the Chinese attendees have definitely fallen, but the numbers have stayed strong, more so I think than at the national level, because people recognize that at times like these, it's important to be where your friends are, and Los Angeles is that kind of a place. So we would expect good attendance from China again this year," Olson said.

Los Angeles is known to the world as the center for entertainment, Olson said. However, what a lot of people don't know is that it's also a leader in manufacturing and it has blooming technology, designs and transportation sectors.

Olson noted that green transportation and housing developments are two areas with potential for further foreign investment in Southern California.

In 2018, the Chinese manufacturer of electric vehicles won the inaugural Select LA investment award for making a significant contribution to the local economy and for creating permanent, well-paying jobs.

Cheung said that opportunities for technologies in esports and mega-events in Los Angeles, such as the 2028 Olympics, are also abundant for Chinese enterprises and other international companies looking to invest in the region.

"We have some of the stadiums that are built but ... what about cybersecurity? What about facial recognition? What about crowd control? All these other technologies are going to be needed in order for us to get these millions and millions of people coming from airport to the public transportation system, to the stadium, and then throughout the entire region for hotels and everything," he said.

Representatives from Riot Game, which is owned by China's Tencent, are among the business representatives expected to attend the summit this year, Cheung said.

According to the 2019 foreign direct investment in Southern California report published by WTC Los Angeles, China ranked eighth in terms of the number of foreign-owned enterprises in the region. The country is represented by 448 companies, which created 15,683 jobs and generated $1.202 billion in income.

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