Harley Seyedin, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in South China, has a simple message for U.S. business leaders: Don't think of China as strictly an export platform and ignore possibilities for selling into the local market.
Seyedin, who heads the Guangzhou-based business group, said at a plastics industry seminar in China that U.S. companies increasingly are using South China to manufacture for the domestic market, and not just as an export platform.
The region, of course, remains export-oriented - 10 percent of the world's household goods, for example, come from within a 75-mile radius of Guangzhou, he said.
But large multinationals, like Procter & Gamble Co., also are using the region more to manufacture for local needs. ``P&G does not export a single bottle of shampoo or tube of toothpaste. They can barely keep up with the demand,'' Seyedin said.
Guangdong Province, with its 71 million people, is now the world's third-largest market for Rolls Royce plc, supplanting Japan, he said. And the province includes China's two wealthiest cities, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, which have per capita incomes of $9,000 and $8,200, respectively, he said.
``Ten years ago, U.S. companies came here to export, but that is really changing quite a bit,'' said Seyedin, who spoke at a May 22 forum in Guangzhou for plastics companies, organized by the chamber and the U.S. Commercial Service office in Guangzhou.
Seyedin said American companies and the U.S. government also don't pay enough attention to how to export to China.
He said Germany is the world's largest exporting economy, not China or the United States, and he argued Germany provides a lot of help for businesses looking to export, from subsidizing trips to helping with legal assistance.
``The German government has a very well-organized, very well-funded mechanism to help their companies penetrate foreign markets,'' he said. ``We don't have a national mechanism to help our people overcome the initial costs of penetrating this market.''