Pierce County, Suzhou City forge economic ties

Leaders of Pierce County and Suzhou City, China, say that despite a population disparity the two metropolitan areas share common economic development and other interests and would benefit from close ties. At the end of an hour-long get-acquainted meeting in the County-City Building yesterday in Tacoma, Pierce County Executive John W. Ladenburg and Senior Consultant to the Mayor of Suzhou Municipality Wang Liping signed an agreement to do just that.

Suzhou City with 6 million residents is considered a medium-sized city in China, “But it’s a big city economically speaking,” Wang said through an interpreter. Located 60 miles from Shanghai, the city is dynamic and admired for a high volume of international trade, according to Wang. It produces one-third of the laptop computers sold worldwide and expects to reach the 40 percent level by the end of this year.

The city is more than 2,500 years old and boasts a rich cultural history as well as more than 60 classical gardens and thiving tourism and manufacturing industries. “The industry of Suzhou ranks number two nationwide behind Shanghai, and the local government provides incentives and services aimed at encouraging investments in the local economy. “So we sincerely hope and invite investors from Pierce County to have their investment in Suzhou,” Wang said.

Ladenburg said in response that economic development is a Pierce County (population, 773,500) priority and that the Port of Tacoma is among the fastest growing ports in the U.S. “I think it is very appropriate that Suzhou with its growth cooperate in friendship with Pierce County because although we are not as large, we are certainly in the same position as you,” Ladenburg told Wang and the other five members of his delegation.

“Of all 50 states in the U.S., Washington State is the most dependent on international trade for its economy. Of all 39 counties in Washington, Pierce is the most reliant on trade for its economy.” Ladenburg noted that the Port of Tacoma is expected to triple in size within 10 years and that the University of Washington Tacoma is the fastest growing UW campus in the state. “We have museums and a cultural arts district in Tacoma that I think you would find fascinating to visit. “So, I think business, cultural and education exchanges would be valuable between Suzhou and Pierce County,” Ladenburg told the visitors.

Sitting at the table with Ladenburg were County Council Chair Terry Lee, Executive Chief of Staff Lyle Quasim, Economic Development Manager Denise Dyer and World Trade Center Tacoma Executive Director Andreas Udbye. Wang’s delegation included Zhai Xiaosheng, president of Association for Overseas Exchanges of Jinchang District, Suzhou; Wang Qinghua, director of the Suzhou Labor and Social Security Bureau; Xie Zhengcai, deputy director of the Suzhou Transportation Bureau; Qian Dongfang, vice secretary general of the Suzhou People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries; and interpreter He Shenglian of the Suzhou Foreign Affairs Office.

The signed Memorandum of Understanding confirms that the entities wish to enhance cooperation in the areas of culture, education, science and technology, environment, trade and economy. To strengthen cooperation, promote mutual understanding and deepen their friendship, the parties agree to host friendly and professional delegations; encourage and support development of economic and trade opportunities and two-way investment and provide maximum cooperation in ventures that arise; support exchange and cooperation between schools and students to nurture educational talents suitable to the international era; and exchange experts in environmental protection, urban greenery and sewage management under the topic of “sustainable development.”