Michigan and China to team up on car technology as more trade war tariffs loom

The Trump administration is expected to announce tariffs of up to 25 per cent on US$200 billion worth of Chinese products but US governor says the focus should be on the long term

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2018, 12:34am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2018, 4:36am

The US state of Michigan and China’s science ministry are planning to team up on car technology in a deal signed in Beijing on Monday, despite the threat of more trade tariffs from Washington.

In the Chinese capital heading up a business delegation from the state, Michigan governor Rick Snyder said he and Science and Technology Minister Wang Zhigang did not discuss the trade war in their talks, keeping the focus on technology, particularly autonomous vehicles.

He said he was optimistic about bilateral ties but was concerned that the tariffs would affect some of the state’s agricultural products.

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“What I would say is, people still saw value coming here to build relationships, because we all hope the issues could get resolved so we can get back doing more trade together,” he said.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has labelled China a strategic competitor and has criticised the country for what it says are forced technology transfers and theft of intellectual property. The complaints come as China continues to push its “Made in China 2025” technological development plan.

The US is expected to announce tariffs of up to 25 per cent on US$200 billion worth of Chinese products, on top of the levies on US$50 billion of products that Washington and Beijing have already imposed on each other.

The Trump administration’s sanctions list covers most Chinese technology and manufacturing products, while China has so far targeted US agricultural goods and commodities.

On his eighth and last trip to China as governor, Snyder and his delegation will meet officials and business leaders to discuss manufacturing, mobility technology, agriculture exports and tourism.

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After signing a memorandum of cooperation to collaborate on car technology with the Ministry of Science and Technology, Snyder said both countries should focus on maintaining a long-term relationship. But the two governments also needed to work on intellectual property issues, he said.

“I would encourage people to have that discussion [about intellectual property] because that’s probably the toughest issue about all the trade.”

China was developing more advanced technology but even Chinese companies had raised concerns about protection of their intellectual property at home, he said.

Snyder and the delegation will visit Tianjin, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Hangzhou, including trips to a plant owned by new-energy carmaker BYD and the headquarters of Guangzhou Automobile Group, which has earmarked US$4.4 million for a research and development centre in Michigan.

China was Michigan’s third-biggest trading partner after Canada and Mexico last year, according to Xinhua.

Michigan, a US centre for car manufacturing, has also attracted US$1.2 billion in Chinese investment since 2011, with 42 per cent going into the car industry, according to the governor’s office.

A separate delegation from Michigan’s agriculture sector will visit to China to expand its exports on food, agriculture and commodities.