Rather than waiting for China to devalue its currency, Georgia exporters should push for the Chinese to buy more U.S. products, and Georgia importers should encourage their Chinese suppliers to invest here, said Pin Pin Chau, president of Summit National Bank in Chamblee.

“Georgia should go after Chinese business,” Ms. Chau said during a panel discussion at a Georgia Tech Alumni Association event on May 3 about business opportunities in China.

China may be prepared to be more flexible with its exchange rate, possibly making its currency convertible in six years or so. But it is not yet ready to float its currency because it needs to maintain the value of its reserves, Ms. Chau said during the Georgia Tech event.

She added that China will eventually liberalize its banking practices and interest rates. But pressure from other countries or international entities will not work to influence many Chinese economic policies because of China’s history of colonization. “China is not an aggressive power. It just wants a place at the table [of world trade],” Ms. Chau asserted.

Georgia companies wanting to profit from doing business with China need “someone to hold your hands, to get you the right permissions to register your business, to speak Chinese on your behalf and to meet with your potential contacts or banks in China,” Ms. Chau told GlobalAtlanta.

Making sure you are working with a legitimate manufacturer goes beyond credit reporting, Ms. Chau noted, and cautioned that companies should work with local advisers to investigate Chinese business partners. She advised Georgia companies exporting to China not to ship any product until they receive a letter of credit from a Chinese or other bank.

She also advised small companies to get to know their Chinese suppliers, asserting that “it’s not like UPS for small businesses because you are not recognized yet” in China. “All the mechanisms of trade a bank can provide do not take the place of looking someone in the eye,” she added.

A letter of credit or a guaranteed payment always speaks better than words for Chinese suppliers, she noted, but said that meeting face to face is still the best way to establish lasting business relationships in China.

Summit is currently working with small business development centers in Shanghai, China, and is targeting municipal banks there for possible partnerships.

Summit is the only Georgia-based bank to have an on-site representative in China. Xiang Zahn, who interned with Summit in Atlanta a couple of years ago, heads up Summit’s office in Shanghai.

President Bush, European Union officials and the World Bank have recently asked China to allow its currency, which is pegged to the U.S. dollar, to float more freely. Some economists and trade officials hope this would help to shrink China’s trade surpluses.

China’s trade surplus with the U.S. hit a record $162 billion in 2004, the U.S.’ largest deficit with any country.

There is some doubt, however, that a more freely floating yuan would reduce trade gaps because U.S. multinational corporations and consumers are staunch buyers of Chinese exports.

Georgia exported $644 million worth of goods to China in 2003.

Contact Ms. Chau at (770) 454-0400 or visit www.summitbk.com. Contact the Georgia Tech Alumni Association at (404) 894-2391 or visit www.gtalumni.org