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China Trade Mission: Early Arrival in Shanghai, Connecting with Auto Suppliers

Justin Robinson of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Business Attraction team is visiting China as part of a 20-day trade mission that includes visits to Ningbo, Shanghai, Dalian and Beijing. The mission involves several components including: participating in Governor Rick Snyder’s September Asia mission; partnering with Dickinson Wright for speaking engagements and one-on-one company calls in Ningbo and Dalian; and teaming up with Miller Canfield, Oakland County, and the city of Auburn Hills at the 2013 Chinese International Auto Parts Expo (CIAPE) in Beijing. This is the third year the Chamber has coordinated regional participation at CIAPE.

Early Arrival in Shanghai, Connecting with Auto Suppliers

Trade Mission 3On August 29, I arrived in Shanghai a full week ahead of my originally planned departure. The reason for the early start – an invitation by Dickinson Wright to speak to more than 60 Ningbo automotive suppliers on the subject of doing business with the U.S. and Detroit auto industries. This was an opportunity too great to pass up as it allowed the Business Attraction team to test a new strategy for the China market aimed at teaming with our key partners for speaking engagements to large groups of potential attraction prospects.

Our presentation to the Ningbo suppliers took place on Saturday, August 31, and was a definite success. The Dickinson Wright team consisted of Mark Heusel and Peter Pang, co-directors of their China Practice and Lianne Yang, director of China business development. In total, there were more than 100 attendees at the program hosted by Gasgoo, a Chinese global auto parts trade and business to business organization. We provided the guests a high level overview of the U.S. auto market, highlighted the key auto assets of Michigan and the advantages for setting up operations in Detroit. We also discussed how to do business with the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Tier One suppliers, and provided examples of how to go about setting up a U.S. operation. After the event we had a chance to engage with over 20 companies one-on-one and have several solid leads as a result.

This opportunity proved to be a great first experience and we are working to improve the model and information for our next presentation to Dalian auto suppliers taking place on September 9.

A Closer Look at Ningbo

DSCN0228Ningbo, China is a city of almost 8 million located approximately 150 miles south of Shanghai (two-hour train ride) in Zheijang province. It is one of China’s most important port cities and is home to a large automotive sector and is a national leader in tool and die capabilities. It is bounded on the east by the East China Sea, on the north by Hangzhou Bay and to the south by Taizhou city.

As in all cities in China, development is occurring at a breakneck pace and there are clearly some great opportunities to be found here. On a side note, we stayed at the Westin Ningbo in the Haishu District which was a great hotel and I would highly recommend. The adjacent area is attached to a major entertainment district and the nicest outdoor mall development I have seen anywhere in the world – plenty of great dining, shopping and people watching.