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Rust-belt Michigan in drive for close economic ties with China under Trump

Michigan state and city officials visiting Beijing said they wanted close economic ties with China when Donald Trump became the US president.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, made the remarks in the Chinese capital on Friday during a trip seeking to boost China investment in the rust-belt state. It is Snyder’s sixth trip to China, and he is the first US state governor to visit China since Trump won the presidential election.

“We had to wait and see, to watch the [election] process … and whom he will choose to put in his administration when he takes the office. But my recommendation to him is to continue to have a positive relationship with China,” Snyder said at a press conference.

“But I have the opportunity to say, as a state, we see great value in all the relationships we are building,” he said.

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Michigan is a major target for Chinese investment in its auto industry, and China is the state’s third-largest trade partner. The mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, is also in the delegation.

“America is a very divided country right now,” Duggan said. “Governor Snyder is a Republican but I am a Democrat, and the people in the city of Detroit voted 96 per cent for Hilary Clinton and were very disappointed about the election result.

“But when the government is divided, it is very difficult for business to succeed. In Michigan we don’t let … political differences get in the way of making business feel welcome in our state. And that’s why Governor Snyder and I felt it important after the election to come together to China and emphasise that if you locate in Michigan, we will work together to help you succeed.”

The message from the state and municipal officials came a day after the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a panel created by the US Congress, proposed in a report that the United States should bar Chinese state-owned enterprises from acquiring assets in the United States for reasons of national security.

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There are also uncertainties about Trump’s trade and investment policies, after he threatened to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese imports during his election campaign.

Snyder said trade conflicts have existed for years, however, and the best way to address them is to show the benefits in job creation of successful investments, citing the acquisition of Nexteer Automotive by Aviation Industry Corp of China in 2014.

Since Snyder’s first trade trip in 2011, Michigan has received more than US$3 billion in investment and mergers and acquisitions from Chinese companies, according to a press release.

The state also sent representatives of 11 Michigan companies to China to meet prospective business partners, and the state’s agriculture department led a food and agriculture mission to china for the first time.