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Opening a door to China

Local, Chinese officials discuss doing business

Thursday, November 25, 1999

By Dan Fitzpatrick, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

When a Chinese trade delegation arrived in Pittsburgh yesterday for lunch and a deal-making session, Tony Fiasco did not know what to expect.

"I was thinking I was going to go back to the office early," said Fiasco, the president of Surtreat Corp., a Downtown company that protects and restores concrete structures.

The day, though, exceeded Fiasco's expectations. Not only did Fiasco stay for lunch, but he also discussed a potential deal with Dou Yunshun, a Chinese economic development official who has a concrete sea wall that needs to be repaired.

"They have a problem and we have a solution," Fiasco said.

A group of 20 Chinese executives and economic development officials spent the morning at the Rivers Club, Downtown. They traveled to Pittsburgh from Hebei Province, a coastal area in north China that includes Beijing and has a population of 65 million.

After lunch, the group flew to Toronto. New York, Miami and Los Angeles are the group's other stops.

"This is a wonderful time for you to be here," said Rita Pollock, economic development director at the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, which sponsored yesterday's event. "Relations between China and the U.S. are at a wonderful beginning."

Earlier this month, China agreed to a series of trade concessions that would lower the country's tariffs and make it easier for American businesses to gain access to Chinese consumers.

The participants in yesterday's get-together made several symbolic gestures. Liu Zhuangsheng, division director of the Hebei Provincial Bureau of International Investment and Cooperation, wore a pin that was half American flag and half Chinese flag.

This is his second trip to Pittsburgh. He first came two years ago, as part of another Hebei delegation.

Several southwestern Pennsylvania executives made the trip Downtown to meet Liu.

Among them was Jay Fennell, CEO of Muscle Products Corp., a Butler-based company that makes lubricants and fluids used by railroads and steel mills. Almost 50 percent of its sales come from overseas. Of that, about 7 percent come from China.

Fennell wants that number to rise. Scanning a list of construction and industrial projects presented yesterday by the Hebei delegates, he spotted a number of opportunities. "What you do with the information is the key," said Fennell, who does business in 34 countries.

Yesterday's meeting, said Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission trade specialist Jim Pietrzyk, was only the beginning for many local firms hoping to do business in the Far East.

"You have to follow up," he said. "Without following up, you are really just wasting your time."

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