Foreign buyers keen on China’s farming products at trade fair
Quoted from People’s Daily Newspaper
Baika Hayashi, president of the Japan-based Hayashi Trading Company Co. Ltd, said her trip to the on-going China AG Trade Fair was “worthy.” The five-day fair is expected close Friday, but Hayashi has already had talks with nearly 20 agricultural products suppliers in China and reached agreements with some of them.
“It’s much easier to do business in China now than before,” said Hayashi. “Japanese consumers are very picky about produce. They care about the quality, packaging, even the shape of the products. But Chinese suppliers could meet our demand most of times.”
Hayashi has bought Chinese farming products and sell them in Japan since 1990. Because of good profit through all these years, the company has set up several supply bases in China now, in Shandong, Shanghai, and Fujian.
Zhang Chunyin, a produce supplier from east China’s Jiangsu province, brought dried radish samples to Hayashi. They reached aninitial agreement at last year’s fair.
“She is basically satisfied with our product, but she has rigidrequirement on the length and the thickness of the radish. Our price is competitive and all our products are green food without pollution, but we have to pay more attention to our processing procedure,” said Zhang.
China is one of the major suppliers of farm produce in the world. The output of products like fruits, aquatics, meat and eggstook a lead internationally. In 2003, China registered an import and export volume of 40.36 billion US dollars of agricultural products, including an export of 21.43 billion US dollar worth.
An official with the International Cooperation Department underthe Ministry of Agriculture said that because of low labor costs, the price of China’s produce on the world market was attractive, but in recent years, green food and organic food has caught more and more attention from international buyers.
According to the fair’s organizing committee, most of the 7.5 billion yuan-worth contracts signed at the fair so far were for green food and organic food.
“China has begun to try to produce agricultural products according to the taste and diet habits of the Western world,” saidHu Shan, representative for the US Atlantic Coast Function Foods Organic Product Administration Office. “The supportive policies onthe development of green food and organic food is good evidence.”
But some buyers from overseas also expressed their worries about the stability of quality of China’s agricultural products.
“China has the labor and manpower to produce large quantities of farming products, the quality is improving, the packaging is improving,” said William Irion, President of Irion Enterprises, a consulting and trade company in the US. “The problem is, the levelis different in different parts of the country, even between different companies.”
The Chinese government has realized the situation. An expert with the Ministry of Agriculture noted that some Chinese farming products have blocked outside some Western markets in the past years, partly because of the trade barriers of some countries, partly because of the instability of Chinese products.
To solve the problem, the country launched a “safe farming product project” in 2001, and set up a center in 2002 to supervisethe quality and safety of export farming products.
SARS fears easily bubble to surface: County impacted from schools to travel
Reprinted from Ventura County Star, May 12, 2003
By T.J. Sullivan
A parent in Oak Park Unified School District mentioned at a recent PTA meeting that her husband had come down with a flulike illness upon returning from a trip to an Asian country. The remark might have drawn sprinkles of sympathy were it uttered a year ago, but in the current climate it conjured storm clouds in the minds of parents. Some children were kept at home for fear the man might have the deadly and mysterious SARS virus. They imagined it being transmitted to classrooms through his kids. “We contacted the parents,” said Ken Moffett, interim superintendent of the district. “He’d obviously gotten a cold … but everybody is sensitive to this issue … Parents were very concerned.” A Thousand Oaks family was confronted with similar sensitivity upon returning last month from an Easter-break journey to China. After spending a surreal time behind surgical masks in a subdued Beijing, the children’s homecoming caused some parents to question the wisdom of allowing them back through the schoolhouse gate. Calls were made to local health officials and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. The daughter’s private high school was satisfied that sufficient precautions had been taken by the family, but the youngest boy’s private elementary school required him to submit to daily inspections. “After consulting with the Health Department, the school’s administrators have the nurse taking his temperature every day to make sure he does not have a fever,” said the boy’s father, S.R. Nair.
Newspaper headlines, radio bulletins and broadcast news reports all have fed a fever pitch of fear about the newly discovered respiratory disease SARS. It has impacted lives even in Ventura County, which has not detected a single confirmed case. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is known to have infected about 7,000 people in 32 countries. About 500 of the victims have died, according to the World Health Organization, but none of the deaths have been in the United States, where fewer than 100 cases have been detected. Two people in Ventura County were suspected of having SARS after visiting Asian countries, but they have since been determined to not have the disease. Regardless, the Communicable Disease Division of Ventura County’s Public Health Services department receives calls daily from county residents and physicians. Mondays are the busiest, says Marilyn Billimek, a supervising public health nurse. A weekend of news feeds worries, particularly during cold and flu season. “We just don’t want to be caught saying that somebody doesn’t have it when they really do, and then have somebody else get real sick and have a death or something,” Billimek said. “That’s what worries us. That’s why we pay attention to what people are saying and follow through.”
Ventura County has been impacted in many ways. Pharmacies say they have received a small amount of interest in the purchase of surgical masks, which are in short supply. “In the beginning of the scare there was a big demand,” said Olga Core, a pharmacist at Lynn Oaks Pharmacy in Thousand Oaks. “But I don’t have any in stock, and we haven’t been able to get any.”
Travel plans have been changed. Chief Deputy Dante Honorico and four other members of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department canceled a trip to China as part of the National Association of Asian American Law Enforcement Commanders. The Chinese government told them not to come. “We were ready,” Honorico said. “We had masks all packed and hand washes and everything else, because we knew what we would be faced with when we got there. “Now I’m glad that we didn’t go,” he conceded. “It turned out to be more serious than was first announced.” Honorico took the vacation time, which he’d already scheduled to use, and went to Germany. David Del Testa, a professor of history at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, had planned a grant-funded trip to Vietnam for himself and four students to punctuate a year spent studying the diary of a Vietnamese teenager who documented her journey through Indochina in 1943. But the grant was canceled because “SARS was too great of a threat to the students and too great of a liability,” Del Testa said. Even Billimek had plans, a 27-day journey through China to kick off her retirement in June. Instead, she’s replaced it with a trip to Washington, D.C. “You cannot exist being paranoid about everything, but you have to live, with care,” she said. Kate Phillips, president of Ventura County’s Classic Travel, said corporations have put out an edict that trips to Asia are off until further notice. But an odd side effect of all the cancellations has been the availability of bargain cruises off California’s shores. “For example, Crystal Cruises withdrew their ship from Asia, repositioned it in California waters and has newly scheduled itineraries at incredibly low prices,” Phillips said. Travelers are “going nuts” buying up tickets.
Santa Barbara has had several instances of concern. The annual Chinese festival scheduled for June was canceled because it’s often attended by visitors from China. Other impacts include the avoidance of businesses in Los Angeles’ Chinatown and the San Gabriel Valley, even though the virus has no link to people of Chinese origin other than the fact that China was the country in which it was discovered. On a recent evening out in the San Gabriel Valley, Hillary Ling, an Oxnard dentist, said only two tables were occupied at the popular Chinese restaurant at which he dined. “It was one of the large restaurants in San Gabriel, and normally it was very, very busy,” said Ling, president of the Ventura County Chinese American Association. “I asked the waitress and she said things have been pretty bad.” Dr. Cary Savitch, an infectious disease specialist in Ventura, said some people are overreacting. “You have a much greater chance of choking on spinach in a Chinese restaurant than of contracting SARS, at this point in time,” he said.
Scientists, including the respected virologist David Baltimore, speak as Shakespeare’s Hamlet did of the importance of bearing “those ills we have.” Instead, many people have chosen to “fly to others that we know not of.” Although diabetes, heart disease and car accidents are well-known causes of death, and far more likely to kill people in California this year than SARS, more fears are being voiced about SARS. Past maladies of the moment have inspired similar stress. The hantavirus was big in 1993, tainting tourist destinations like Taos and Santa Fe, N.M. But few were affected. As of March, the CDC said a total of 335 cases of hantavirus have been reported in the United States. About 38 percent have resulted in death. West Nile virus was a boon for bug-repellent producers. It is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes. As of April, the CDC reported 284 people died from West Nile. Fewer than 1 percent of those infected become severely ill. In the early 1980s it was E. coli, more specifically known as E. coli O157:H7. It was discovered after people ate contaminated, undercooked hamburgers. More than 10 years later, in 1995, the CDC said the form of E. coli causes 250 deaths a year. There are ills that cause far more fatalities. AIDS, for which there is no cure, has killed nearly 500,000 in the United States since it was discovered in the 1980s. Heart disease, the No. 1 cause of death, kills about 700,000 a year in the United States. Diabetes kills about 70,000 a year.
Dr. George Yu, a specialist in pulmonary diseases and critical-care medicine with offices in Oxnard and Camarillo, said it’s important to focus on what is known. “It’s important for us in the health field to hopefully calm people’s fears down,” he said. That effort is complicated, however, by policies such as the one instituted by the University of California at Berkeley this past week. The institution said it will welcome about 80 students from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, who have enrolled in core academic classes that begin May 27th. The school will, however, maintain its ban on nearly 600 students who had enrolled in English as a Second Language classes to a UC extension program. “That really places politics over medical rationale at this time,” Yu said. “If it were issued by a public health official, that would be a different policy altogether. Savitch agreed, although he’s also careful to point out the potential for a pandemic. Public health agencies must plan for the worst-case scenario, he said, even though the spread of the disease appears to have slowed. The method of transmission is still being studied, although it’s known to spread person to person. The death rate is also being debated. The CDC has said 6.6 percent of those infected with SARS will die, but WHO figures have gone as high as 15 percent. Others have said it’s even higher. Some physicians have pointed to the Spanish flu, which was spread in part by soldiers during and after World War I in 1918 and 1919. Though health officials and historians say they’ll never really know how many people died in that pandemic, estimates have put the death toll between 20 million and 70 million worldwide, and at more than 500,000 in the United States. “If (SARS) in fact exploded like influenza … it could close down our health care system,” Savitch said. Without access to health care, greater numbers would likely die, he said.
Local entrepreneurs who do business in Asian countries say they still will travel there. William Irion, a Santa Paula resident who journeys to Japan and China, returned Wednesday from a trip to both countries. “In China, I was checked repeatedly, with scanners and thermometers, and they had forms for you to fill out getting on and off the plane,” he said. Irion says he will probably avoid Beijing until concerns about SARS are assuaged, but he may visit other parts of China. S.R. Nair, a Thousand Oaks businessman, said he may go to Hong Kong in June. “I will if I have to,” he said. On his recent trip to Beijing he wore a surgical mask, avoided crowded places and took private cars instead of taxis. “You have to take some precautions,” he said. “But it’s nothing to panic about.”
Copyright 2003, Ventura County Star. All Rights Reserved.
Embassy exec gives advice on trade with China
Reprinted from Pacific Coast Business Times, March 28 – April 3, 2003
By LAURA POLLAND Staff Writer
Trade with China holds opportunity for American companies, but enthusiasm for the growing market and huge population should not distract would be exporters from sound business practices, an international trade expert warned a group of Ventura County businesspeople.
“It’s the only growth market left in the world, yet one of the toughest markets in the world to penetrate,” said Thomas Lee Boam, senior commercial officer of the United States Embassy in Beijing, China. While many American companies are doing very well in China, many others suffer from counterfeiting, disadvantageous contracts, or simply no market for their product, he said.
“Right now I have $9 billion in trade disputes on my desk,” Boam said, estimating that 75 percent are “self-inflicted,” the consequence of companies becoming careless in their business practices. “We see people coming to China doing things they wouldn’t do anywhere else,” he said, adding a colleague’s advice: When you come to do business in China, don’t leave your brain on the luggage carousel.
Boam spoke at a March 19 luncheon in Oxnard sponsored by the United States Department of Commerce and Irion Enterprises and supported by other Ventura County organizations with an interest in international trade.
Boam offered a series of anecdotes and advice to attendees who are doing business or considering doing business with China. If American companies come in having done their homework, the embassy can be more helpful he said, adding that he would prefer to answer questions like “How can I repatriate my profits” rather than “How can I get my money back?”
The first step to a successful trade relationship is to make sure there is a market for the product, Boam said.
He described a seller of embalming fluid who came into the embassy with high hopes for his prospects in China. What he hadn’t bothered to find out was that “99.9 percent” of the Chinese population is cremated, and never embalmed, Boam said.
While some companies, like this salesman, are fighting upstream against millennia of Chinese cultural history, others simply overestimate their market.
“People don’t understand that desire doesn’t equal demand. We’ve got oodles of desire. Demand is desire plus disposable income,” Boam said.
He estimated that just about 250 million ‘Chinese are in a position to buy relatively expensive American products. Another 800 million live on about $1 per day, he said.
China’s gross domestic product last year was $1.3 trillion, about on par with that of Italy and a third of California’s. Japan’s GDP was eight to 10 times larger. “The difference in China is growth,” Boam said.
There is a demand for Western products, which can serve as status symbols. However, this demand also drives the flourishing counterfeit market.
Boam estimated that counterfeit goods represent 10 percent to 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. The piracy rate for software is 92 percent, down from 98 percent a few years ago. Movies are one big counterfeiting market; pharmaceuticals, more seriously, are another. The biggest source of counterfeiting is former employees.
Conditions are improving, however, as courts make an effort to deal with counterfeiting. The Chinese government has agreed to buy its software, rather than using pirated copies, Boam said. Intellectual property protection is essential to the business model of any successful company trading in China, he added.
Copyright 2003 Pacific Coast Business Times.
Ventura County Star
Trade opportunity grows with China
Country begins opening markets
By Raul Hernandez, email@example.com
June 29, 2002
China is a vast emerging market that is barely beginning to allow the world to tap into its 1.5 billion consumers, according to a trade expert.
As China begins to take full advantage of its entry to the World Trade Organization, the country has lessened restrictions and opened up its markets, particularly to foreign investors, said William Irion, president of Irion Enterprises.
Ventura County will benefit for China’s participation in the WTO.
“That makes agricultural products much easier to sell in China,” said Irion, a global trade facilitator and adviser.
Irion was one of the speakers at a China trip debriefing, sponsored by Oxnard College.
Recently, officials and educators from Port Hueneme, Oxnard Harbor District, and the Oxnard College Center for International Trade Development took trade missions to China.
Friday, they talked about their experiences, examined trade opportunities and follow-up visits to China.
“They are reforming a lot of China to meet WTO requirements,” Irion said. “There is more rule of law.”
These reforms include lowering more than 5,000 tariffs by an average of 12 percent, allowing financial institutions like Bank of America to do business in China and not limiting foreign investment to certain parts, Irion said.
There was $259 billion in U.S. investment in China last year, Irion said.
U.S. auto manufacturers — General Motors, Ford and Chrysler — have been doing business in China for the last 20 years, according to the Chinese Commercial Consul in Los Angeles.
“You may see a very different China in 10 years,” he said. “Something else you are hearing in China, business for profit. This in a land where profit was a bad word.”
Sunkist Citrus, which exports oranges from the Port of Hueneme, began shipping fruit to China in 2001, say trade analysts.
Oxnard Harbor District Commissioners Jesse Ramirez and Nao Takasugi talked about their 10-day trip to China in May. They are optimistic that the county could soon start shipping its citrus and other crops there.
The Harbor District board endorsed a “friendly exchanges relationship” with counterparts at the Port of Qinhaungdo. The port is about 175 miles east of Beijng.
Ramirez said his concern is that the Chinese don’t have the infrastructure to distribute goods throughout the country. In Asia, small trucks also are still used for commercial transportation, he said.
“Semi-trucks are not existent in the Far East,” he said. “So we have a long way to go.”
Also more modern equipment to unload fruit and other American products and refrigerated warehouses to store produce are needed, Ramirez said.
Copyright 2002, Ventura County Star. All Rights Reserved.
Ventura County Star
County officials are looking longingly at China
BROADER HORIZONS: They see the Asian giant as a way to expand their businesses.
By Frank Moraga, Staff writer
April 28, 2002
If it seems like everyone is going to China to do business these days, that might not be too far from the truth.
One delegation from the Port of Hueneme already has visited Beijing for meetings on establishing and expanding trade activities at ports on both sides of the Pacific.
Meanwhile, other groups are planning trips to look at the investing and marketing potential in the Asian superpower.
There is good reason for local businesses to consider China and the rest of Asia as prime markets.
“Everyone expects trade in Asia to grow by 10 times in the next 10 years. China is becoming a manufacturing location for companies all over the world,” said William Irion of Irion Enterprises in Santa Paula, who is on the board of the Pacific Agribusiness Alliance and the World Affairs Council of Ventura County.
Irion himself is working with a Japanese company that is importing flowers from China along with companies involved in bulk wine production, which could see tariff prices in China for American wine products fall from the current level of 65 percent down to 14 percent in a few years thanks to China entry into the World Trade Organization.
A good part of the push for the Port’s interest in China can be traced to Will Berg, director of marketing for the Oxnard Harbor District.
“With Will Berg, you have someone in the Port District who speaks Chinese,” Irion said.
Berg visited China last year, made some initial contacts for the port, did some research and brought back enough information to set in motion a variety of programs, Irion said.
Berg, Oxnard Harbor commissioners Jesse Ramirez, Jess Herrera, Nao Takasugi and William J. Buenger — the port’s executive director, left Ventura County more than a week ago and were scheduled to conclude their trip to Beijing on Saturday.
While in China they were scheduled to meet with port officials in Qinhuangdao and Shanghai and attend the Supply Chain Management & Logistics Roundtable and Expo in Beijing.
Meanwhile a local delegation from the 34-member private Camarillo/Shaoxing Friendship City Organization will be visiting China from May 9 through 19.
Interest in trade with China has extended to other groups statewide. The California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, through its International Trade Committee and the government of China, is organizing the “Agro/Techno Trade Mission to China” from June 12 through 20.
For the $3,090 fee for members, $3,190 for non-members, the trade mission will take participants to the cities of Tianjian and Shenyang where they can introduce their products and services during private meetings, roundtable presentations, conferences and business receptions.
Julian Canete, executive director of the Hispanic Chambers, and Hugo W. Merida, the International Trade Committee chairman, will lead the trade mission.
©Ventura County Star, 2002.
Editorial by Henry Dubroff in the Pacific Coast Business Times March 29-April 2002 issue.
Supporting world trade
Just around the corner is May, and with it comes a significant opportunity to educate public officials and small businesses about world trade opportunities.
That’s because in large communities across the country, May is the time for celebrating World Trade Week-an effort to promote exports as well as domestic foreign investment. Bill Irion, one of our favorite experts on these matters, points out that Los Angeles has an extremely active World Trade Week program but that the Tri-Counties has lagged far behind. Why? The reasons are hard to fathom. We have one of the most successful ports in North America in the Port of Hueneme. We have world-class agriculture that exports flowers, strawberries, lemons and all sorts of things around the globe. We have wonderful technology companies like Amgen, Vetronix and Vitesse Semiconductor that make products for global markets. We have an impressive new company, Catalytic Solutions, that is owned in part by Honda and is making a revolutionary new catalytic converter. World trade is a significant driver for the Tri-Counties economy. It deserves greater recognition.
Pacific Coast Business Times
Dec. 14, 2001
International trade services take hit in Ventura County
By Laura Polland Staff Writer
Ventura County’s international trade resources are in a state of upheaval with the recent closure of the Export Small Business Development Center in Ventura and the reorganization of the California Central Coast World Trade Center in Oxnard.
Both the El Segundo-based Export Small Business Development Center and its satellite in Ventura shut down in mid-October. Although up to 50 percent of an SBDC’s funding comes from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Export SBDC also received funding from The Export Managers Association, U.S. Department of Commerce and State of California.
A representative of the El Segundo-based operations attributed the shutdown to the discontinuation of state funds.
“When the president’s budget came out, everyone knew the Department of Commerce would receive cuts. A lot of its funding [was federal]. The major slowdown we’ve been experiencing put it over the top,” said Kevin Santos-Coy, an international trade specialist at the Center for International Trade Development in Oxnard.
The Export SBDC was founded in 1991 by the Export Managers Association of California to help small exporters. Its Web site, www.exportsbdc.org, states that the organization had more than 16,000 customers using three main services: educational seminars, access to a database and free one-on-one trade counseling.
World Trade centers offer similar services, acting as a kind of portal with educational seminars, membership discounts and trade information such as trade standards, laws, shipping and foreign investment. The Oxnard-based California Central Coast World Trade Center has been in a state of reduced activity while it undergoes restructuring.
“We have been in the process of implementing a virtual presence hopefully more useful to our supporters and members than only a brick-and-mortar presence,” said David Habib, a board member of the WTC in Oxnard. “Over the [past] year or so we have worked with the new [Center for International Trade Development] office at Oxnard College in offering and promoting trade-related programs in the community, and we expect to implement some new programs of our own beginning early next year.”
In the meantime, the trade center’s phone number at its offices in the Oxnard financial plaza tower has been disconnected. Although board members, including Habib and Allan Austin, president of the WTC, are providing limited services, there is no longer an active staff, said Bill Buenger, a World Trade Center board member and executive director of the Port of Hueneme.
Buenger attributed the reorganization to “a number of things,” including funding and issues with membership and staff.
The California Central Coast World Trade Center was reevaluating its goals last year as a natural part of the transition to a new president, said Bella Heule, executive vice president of the World Trade Center in Long Beach. The former president, Gary Snyder, left his position to head a new online international trade resource, WorldTradeServices.com.
Matthew Kleinknecht, vice president of the New York-based World Trade Centers Association, had not heard that the Oxnard center was reorganizing, but said it would not be unusual for a World Trade Center to shut down temporarily for reorganization while retaining membership in the national association.
Habib believes the county’s international trade structure will come out stronger after the reorganiaation. “We are � designing and expect to facilitate a system of cooperation between several organizations in the county, in order to consolidate and improve the accessibility and delivery of international trade-related information and services to the community,” he said.
Other international trade services in the county include the Center for International Trade Development, located at Oxnard College, and the U.S. Commercial Service Center in Ventura. These organizations are helping to pick up the slack left by the closure and reorganization of their fellow international trade groups.
“As we have done before, we continue to invite as many of the [remaining international business] players to come to the international council meetings and strategize accordingly,” said Santos-Coy of the Center for International Trade Development.
With a thriving port and industries including agriculture, technology and manufacturing, Ventura County seems like a natural place for international trade to spring up. The troubled economy could even increase the number of companies entering the international arena.
“Historically, U.S. companies turn to exporting in a downturn,” said Bill Irion, principal of Irion Enterprises, an international consultancy in Santa Paula. While large companies are often already involved in international trade, it is during recessions that smaller companies turn away from an insufficient U.S. market to find outside customers, he said.
©2001 Pacific Coast Business Times. All Rights Reserved, Reprinted with Permission.
Financial community attempts to calm customers, one another
By Deborah Crowe, and Roger Harris, Ventura County Star. Sept. 12, 2001
Tuesday was numbing for the Ventura County financial community as it attempted to calm clients and comfort each other as the World Trade Center disaster unfolded.
The World Trade Center is a few blocks from the New York Stock Exchange in the area known as the Financial District. Many of the nation’s investment firms have at least some of their operations in New York’s financial district and the physical and emotional wreckage could limit their ability to restart quickly.
As much as anything the apparent loss of a “large number of knowledgeable and experienced” businesspeople who worked in the twin towers will have a lingering effect on world business, said William Irion, owner of Irion Enterprises, a Santa Paula consulting firm that does business in Japan, China and elsewhere.
“That is the major trade center in the world, after all, and those buildings are gone and who knows how many people are dead,” Irion said.
Replacing that lost business experience will not be easy, Irion said.
“This affects people in every country of the world because so much global business flows through that center in New York,” he said.
Although the terrorist attacks brought the stock market to a standstill, S.R. Nair, president of International Technologies Network Inc., a Thousand Oaks consulting firm that helps companies do business in China and Turkey, said the economy will not be permanently damaged.
“I don’t think there will be a long-term effect on trade,” Nair said. “The economy will recover.”
Although similar disasters have caused brief downturns in the market, no one really knows what investors already battered by the stock market retreat will do when the markets reopen.
“We’ve been told to expect the markets to remain closed for the rest of the week, and maybe that’s a good idea,” said broker MaryAnne Barber at the Oxnard office of A.G. Edwards, which has its headquarters in St. Louis. She was keeping one eye on on the TV and news Web sites throughout the day as she took calls.
Barber said she was thankful she didn’t know of any friends or colleagues who would have been in the World Trade Center complex at the time.
“But I feel so sorry for the people at Dean Witter,” she said. Around 3,500 people working for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter’s individual investor services were based in the World Trade Center.
A man answering the phone at Dean Witter’s Oxnard office declined to talk about the event. “It would be inappropriate to comment now,” he said.
Queens native Patrick Montes, a broker at Westlake Village-based Peregrine Financial Group, once worked at the Trade Center. He was worried not only about former colleagues but also some family members who worked across the street from the complex. He was relieved when he learned that his cousins had not yet arrived at work when the attacks began and that their bus was turned away from the disaster area by police.
“I’m devastated,” Montes said. “This was my neighborhood. This was where I worked and lived for nine years. I feel personally attacked, in a way.”
Montes isn’t so sure that closing the markets for several days is the best idea.
“An extended market close could be dangerous because there may be a pent-up demand to sell,” Montes said. “It could be like a thousand people trying to get out one door. It also sends the wrong message to the terrorists, that by doing this they’ve been able to control our markets.”
Tom Whitney, a commodities specialist at Peregrine, believes vulnerability over the attack will compound the worries of investors already concerned about the economy.
“There likely will be a flight to quality, to safe havens, ” said Whitney, noting that the price of gold spiked in the few minutes the market was open before the attack.
“There’s no way that it’s prudent, ethical or even possible to be trading for a day or two,” said Ventura financial planner Steve Wagner. “Maybe closing for the week will give people a chance to calm down and think through what they want to do.
“Past events suggest that a disaster like this will send the markets down for a while,” said Camarillo financial planner Stan Harley, author of the Harley Market Letter. “I have been saying that we were very close to a market low before this happened, but this will delay an upturn for a while.”
Both Harley and Whitney noted that Monday after-hours trading and the overnight world markets suggested that Tuesday otherwise should have been good day for the U.S. markets.
Britain’s stock market, the FTSE, was undergoing a rally led by telecom and drug stocks just minutes before the first attack. It ended the day down 287.7 points, its worst one-day decline since the October 1987 global stock market crash.
“If the European markets are stable by next Monday, our markets may stabilize some,” said Harley, advising investors to keep an eye on the FTSE, the temper of which the Dow often tracks. “More often than not, the FTSE leads the Dow.”
“I would caution people to step back and look at the bigger picture,” Harley said.
In the Tokyo market, the first to open today after the attack, stocks plunged below the key 10,000-point mark for the first time in 17 years. In early trading, the benchmark 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average fell 685.33 points, or 6.66 percent, to 9,607 points.
A number of local retailers closed their doors Tuesday following the attacks. Pacific View mall in Ventura, The Oaks mall in Thousand Oaks and Camarillo Premium Outlets were among the major retail centers in Ventura County that shut their doors and sent employees home.
“We made that decision as a group with our merchants,” said Becky Bresson, general manager of The Oaks. “We wanted to be sensitive to people’s feelings at a time like this.”
The malls and outlet center all were closed prior to 10 a.m., the normal opening time. A handful of shoppers were waiting for stores to open. A few “mall walkers” were exercising at Pacific View when the decision was made to close the Ventura mall.
“Everyone understood and everyone went home,” said Alice Love, Pacific View’s marketing director. As of late Tuesday, it was unknown if the malls and outlet center would be open today.
Every day that the malls and outlet center are closed costs local governments thousands of dollars in lost sales tax revenue. The Oaks, Pacific View and Camarillo Premium Outlets all have more than 120 stores that attract thousands of shoppers every day.
Though some of its New York facilities were damaged, Verizon did not have any major disruption in its network. The company did, however, experience a high volume of telephone calls into and out of the New York and Washington, D.C. areas. The Verizon Emergency Operations Center in Thousand Oaks is on high security alert, according to a spokeswoman. Adding to the day’s confusion, the Verizon call center in Oxnard was evacuated for part of the day following a bomb threat.
The public’s desire to keep up with the latest news developments tested local Internet companies’ communication networks. VCNet in Camarillo, ISWest in Westlake Village and dock.net in Camarillo all reported a significant increase in traffic on their Internet servers.
“All of the news (Web) sites are getting a lot of traffic,” said dock.net executive Bill Harrel. “All of the sites with streaming video you can hardly get to. We’re also getting a lot of calls from customers who are traveling who want to get our nationwide phone numbers so they can get online from the hotel rooms or wherever.”
The grounding of aircraft across the nation affected overnight package delivery and contributed to cancellation of West Coast events with out-of-town participants.
The Banc of America Securities Annual Investment Conference in San Francisco, running this week, has been cancelled until further notice. The conference invites hedge fund managers and executives to hear presentations from top executives of dozens of companies. The parent company, Bank of America, had offices on at least four floors of the trade center’s North Tower, according to an online office directory.
The business school at the University of California, Los Angeles will go ahead today with its quarterly Anderson Forecast Conference, which will include an economic forecast for the nation and the state, as well as speakers on “Innovation and Investment in the Post Dot-Com World.”
— Deborah Crowe’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Roger Harris’ address
is email@example.com. ©Ventura County Star
September 12, 2001
Japan’s ailments overstated, consul tells county audience
By Tom Kisken, Staff writer, Ventura County Star
Japan’s economy is ailing, with unemployment expected to get worse, but the condition isn’t terminal, a consul general for the nation told globally minded business people in Camarillo this week.
“It has become fashionable in the U.S., and even in some circles in Japan, to overestimate Japan’s economic weakness,” said Masaharu Kohno in his first formal presentation since becoming consul general to Southern California and Arizona a month ago. “In the judgment of many, the country has gone from an economic powerhouse to the sick man of Asia, all in the blink of an eye.”
Kohno emphasized Japan’s strength despite its problems, noting it has a gross domestic product that is more than two-thirds of Asia’s total economic output. Far from weak, Japan is embracing a restructuring that will eventually make it even more competitive, he said.
Based in Los Angeles, the consul general has the job of nurturing relationships in a region with more Japan-affiliated businesses than anywhere else in the nation. Speaking at a World Affairs Council of Ventura County dinner Wednesday night, Kohno estimated that Japanese-linked companies employ about 160,000 people in Southern California. He said those people earn an average of about $40,000 a year in Southern California, making for an industry with a payroll of $6.4 billion — comparable to defense manufacturing.
But he also said California’s stronghold on Japanese capital investment is diminishing as other regions of the country boost their efforts to attract foreign business.
“I’m not implying that tax incentives are the key to attracting companies from Japan,” he said. “But, as I’m sure you’re aware, the competition to woo top quality investment has become very keen here in the U.S. … California would be well advised to be more sensitive to creating a favorable business climate for foreign investment.”
And if Americans over-exaggerate Japan’s woes, Kohno said, they tend to underestimate an ongoing economic revolution that he compared to Japan’s meteoric rise from the ashes of World War II. Unemployment will climb in the short term but economic expansion could begin to emerge in about three years.
Before an audience that included a handful of women in kimonos, Kohno covered ample ground: a summit meeting between new Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and President Bush set for Saturday; the Los Angeles Dodgers’ frustration at not being able to sign baseball player Ichiro Suzuki; the U.S. internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the movie “Pearl Harbor.”
Though the film’s take on history has offended some people, Kohno said he didn’t think it would bring any lasting tension. Others in the room echoed his comments, though at least one person boycotted the movie.
Kohno said California is often the place that creates images of Japan and also the strongest reactions to those images. He suggested the state should also head the pack when it comes to enhancing business relationships with the entire Pacific Rim.
“California tends to take the lead in so many things, why not this as well?” he said.
— Tom Kisken’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 29, 2001 ©Ventura County Star
September 12, 2001