Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel meets Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan to save jobs at risk in trade war

Rahm Emanuel seeks to lock in deal for US$1.3 billion venture to assemble railcars in US city

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 8:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 8:55pm

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, on a mission to salvage business deals threatened by a tariff war, said on Thursday that Chinese officials expressed confidence they could survive the spiralling dispute with Washington.

The mayor met Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan and China’s commerce minister this week in an effort to lock in a US$1.3 billion deal for a Chinese company to assemble railcars in Chicago.

The foreign ministry said on Wednesday that China would take “firm and forceful measures” if US President Donald Trump went ahead with a second round of tariffs on Chinese goods in a dispute over Beijing’s technology policy.

“They wanted to communicate, obviously, that this is not their preference,” Emanuel said. “They would rather work something out, but they’re not scared if this is where it goes.”

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After meeting executives from the Chinese railway car manufacturer, Emanuel said he was committed to completing the project. The factory construction would soon be finished and employees from Chicago were due to arrive in China for training, he said.

The US-Chinese conflict has rattled businesses that worry trade and investment might be disrupted.

The mayor said he hoped to “hermetically seal” off Chicago, a city of 3 million people, from the impact of the dispute, in which the two nations’ governments have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s goods.

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The railway venture is expected to create more than 200 jobs, and cargo from China also contributes to Chicago airport revenues.

“We don’t want our relationships to be influenced by the winds of where the trade and tariff battles are,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel said he had not initially expected to meet Wang, an adviser of Chinese President Xi Jinping who is believed to have an outsize influence on foreign policy.

On Friday, Washington imposed 25 per cent tariffs on US$34 billion in Chinese products. Beijing responded by imposing similar duties on the same amount of US imports.