Nadia Theodore, Canada‘s consul general based in Atlanta, told Global Atlanta that she enjoyed the 2018 Georgia International Trade and Commerce Summit held in Chatham County earlier in August because it enabled her to meet with local officials, community leaders and businesspeople and not have to “preach to the choir.”
“I especially liked talking about tariffs, trade and NAFTA with the local attendees as opposed to having to preach to the choir such as corporate CEOs and federal officials who already know the issues,” she said.
Ms. Theodore was joined by the consuls general Takashi Shinozuka of Japan, Young-jun Kim of Korea, and Dr. Mohammad Khurram, Pakistan’s commercial trade officer based in Houston, at the Aug. 10-11 event held in Garden City, just northwest of Savannah.
The event’s host committee included Georgia State Reps. Carl Gilliard, Savannah and Pedro Marin of Duluth, Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach, Garden City Mayor Don Bethune, Pooler Mayor Mike Lamb, Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey, City of Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman as well as officials of the Savannah Port Authority and Gulfstream Aerospace Corp.
The summit was organized by Farooq Mughal, a Pakistani American who is the managing partner of MSGlobal Partners LLC, an Atlanta-based international public policy and business development consultancy.
Mr. Mughal said that the event was organized not as a “theatrical production” but on a more intimate scale where the 50 to 60 attendees could interact with the foreign officials.
In keeping with Ms. Theodore’s interactive, getting-to-know-you theme, Mr. Gilliard praised the summit for raising the awareness of the economic development role of international companies in the state.
“…they’re not just bringing jobs, they’re bringing careers. Were talking about livable wages, company benefits and opportunities to grow within an industry,” he told the local media.
Before the consuls general and the trade commissioner returned home at the end of the two days they visited the facilities of Georgia Ports Authority and Gulfstream Aerospace. They also toured the city halls of Pooler and Savannah.
In his farewell, Mr Gilliard promised that during the next legislative session he would introduce legislation to help promote collaboration between Georgia and international cities in an effort to further global relationships.
Mr. Mughal told Global Atlanta that the administration’s trade policies concern the local officials “who fear a loss of jobs in their communities” and the local companies such as Gulfstream that “fear a loss of contracts.”
For their part, the foreign officials had the opportunity to present their perspectives on the impact of the U.S. administration’s tariff policies on their economies at home and on global trade generally.
They pointed to the $8 billion worth of goods exported from Georgia’s port to Canada, Japan and Korea last year, and the jobs generated by the foreign direct investment made by companies from their countries.
Ms. Theodore immediately pointed to price rises that consumers of Coca-Cola products will face due to tariffs on steel and aluminum. Another example she cited was that of Alcoa, the 130-year-old American conglomerate, which in the face of new tariffs has suffered a drop in its share price and earnings estimates. Alcoa operates three smelters in Canada, which were not excluded from tariffs.
The Canadian government has threatened new tariffs and quotas on certain steel imports because of a surge in foreign steel inundating in the country. The Canadian government fears that the U.S. tariffs have prompted China and other countries to dump their steel into Canadian markets.
The threat of national security tariffs on Canadian automobiles and automobile parts also creates serious concerns for the automotive industry, she said, and would require her government to retaliate.
In addition, Ms. Theodore pointed to the importance of sustaining supply chains that have been established over recent decades. “We’re in the 21st century,” she added.
Mr. Shinozuka, the Japanese consul general, told Global Atlanta “that imposing tariffs does not help resolve the trade deficit issues.” “…trade restriction measures by a great country like the U.S. would have a restrictive effect on a significant portion of global trade, leading to serious disruption of world markets, and putting the global free trade system at great risk.”
“If additional tariffs of 25 percent were to be imposed on automotive products and auto parts, the negative impact would be huge,” he said. “That would not be good for U.S. consumers, not good for the U.S. economy and its reputation, not good for the global economy.
“A study conducted by an American institute says that with a 25 percent tariff levied on automobiles and auto parts, and with retaliation from other countries, up to more than 600,000 jobs could be lost in the U.S.,” he added.
“The Japanese auto-related companies have created more than 1.5 million jobs across the United States, and the products of the companies contribute to U.S. exports.
“We are also proud to have more than 600 Japanese companies in Georgia, including a bunch of great auto suppliers, hoping that more would come. Same at Canada or the Republic of Korea, we consider ourselves as close partners and allies of the United States, and the exports of the current situation really hurts.
“We started on Aug. 9 a round of talks with the U.S. administration on ‘Free, Fair and Reciprocal Trade.’ We do not want to challenge or criticize anyone, but we do hope that with the help of you all, a right decision will be taken at the end of the day.”
Mr. Kim, the Korean consul general, underscored the strong diplomatic alliance between South Korea and the U.S., but he emphasized the same concerns as the other consuls general regarding supply chains, the global economy and called for a more “long-term perspective.”
“Tariffs and other barriers to market access are not the best resorts. Instead government policy should pursue a way to enhance competitiveness from a long-term perspective. I am also afraid that trade frictions among major trading partners could result in decreased world trade and harm to the consumer’s interest in general.
“In this respect, I believe that the multilateral trading system, which the United States played a leading role in its creation, should be robustly sustained. Of course, I concur that the World Trade Organization system is in some aspect outdated and is not fully reflecting current business circumstances. But we can discuss how to improve the system with a more fair way.”
Additionally, he defended current “global value chains.” He pointed to the production process of Apple phones, which “are assembled in China with numerous parts produced in Korea, Japan, the U.S. and so on.
“The U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum and imported Chinese goods, and on foreign vehicles and auto parts under investigation will affect seriously the economy and U.S. relationships with other countries.”
In addition to his general comments, Mr. Kim cited problems that U.S. tariffs have presented for the Korean companies including Kumho Tire in Georgia, Samsung Electronics and Kiswire in South Carolina.
Production costs have risen and profits decreased at Kumho, he said, because of 10-25 percent tariffs on tire moulds and general chemical materials. Samsung has held back from expanding its investment in South Carolina, he said, because of tariffs on injection machines manufactured by an Austrian company in China that it has considered importing. And Kiswire is facing difficulties, he said, in procuring materials due to the tariffs on steel and has had to reduce its orders.
While Pakistan does not have the foreign direct investment of Canada, Japan or Korea in Georgia, Dr. Kurhamm accepted Mr. Mughal’s invitation to attend and was surprised to learn of the extent of the investment by these three countries in the Southeast.
He also was pleased to learn, he said, that there is extensive trade going on with Pakistan including several container ships traveling between his country and Georgia with textile materials, raw cotton and yarn. In addition, he said that he was surprised to discover extensive cargoes of soy beans going to Pakistan from the port.
He added that he enjoyed meeting with the local businesspeople and is working on establishing ties between information technology companies here and in Pakistan.
To reach Mr. Mughal, call 678-234-3242 or go to www.mughalpartners.com