Manitowoc: One Wisconsin Manufacturer’s Dealings With China

By January 18, 2011Trade

With China’s top government official, Hu Jintao, meeting with President Obama today, The Washington Post uses the experience of a Wisconsin equipment manufacturer, Manitowoc Co., to highlight the positives and negatives of business dealings and U.S. economic relations with China.

From “Wisconsin firm learns ups and downs of doing business in China“:

MANITOWOC, WIS. – As much as any U.S. firm, Manitowoc Co. has tied its fortunes to China’s star, designing its corporate strategy around the promise of a booming billion-person market.

But as President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao prepare to meet this week, Manitowoc’s fitful performance illustrates the challenges of U.S. trade with China, even as it has become crucial for many companies, particularly in the decade since Beijing joined the World Trade Organization.

From the shores of Lake Michigan, the oddly diverse company – a manufacturer of industrial cranes, commercial ice makers and high-tech ovens – has pumped out exports for China and helped sustain a workforce of about 8,000, mostly in Wisconsin. But the company has also been slapped by China with unexpected import taxes that threaten to put some of the employees out of work.

It’s a thorough, serious story. (Although we’d say “oddly diverse” isn’t right: Many manufacturers produce a wide variety of products, the result of innovation, growth, acquisitions and mergers.)

UPDATE (9:35 a.m.): AP reports on other business concerns with China, including theft of intellectual property and the anti-competitive procurement policy, “indigenous innovation.” From “US companies expand goals as China leader arrives“:

When it joined the World Trade Organization 9 years ago, Beijing promised to give foreign companies a fair chance to sell to the government. By most accounts, it hasn’t done so.

“In terms of government procurement, every year is the year of the snail in China,” said Frank Vargo, vice president for international affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers. “China is still a state-managed economy, and government procurement is enormous. China has simply not opened that market.”

But Hu told the Journal and the Post that foreign companies’ “innovation, production and business operations in China enjoy the same treatment as Chinese enterprises.

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