Chinese companies in the U.S. impacted by trade tensions

Global Business

Chinese companies in the U.S. impacted by trade tensions

More than 600 companies are urging U.S. President Donald Trump to resolve the trade dispute with China, saying tariffs hurt American businesses and consumers. They signed a letter to Trump on Thursday, the latest of many sent by the national campaign group known as ‘Tariffs Hurt the Heartland.’ The tariffs are also set to impact many Chinese companies operating in the U.S., including CRRC Sifang America, a Chinese railcar manufacturer.

CGTN’s Dan Williams reports.

A brand new $100 million manufacturing plant has just opened on the outskirts of Chicago, and soon, it will have a major impact on the city’s commuters. This is the next generation of Chicago Transit Authority railcars, produced by Chinese company CRRC.

The company won the contract to produce 846 rail cars in 2016. These will be the first railcars produced in Chicago since 1964. But the ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and China threatens to undermine the project, after the U.S. imposed tariffs on Chinese imports.

“The trade impact is many fold actually. But some of the legislation that is being considered in Washington would have a definite impact on the workers that we have hired here. We want to make the railcars here, we want to make them by the people that live here and we want the components to come from the people of the United States as well,” said Marina Popovic, CRCC’s human resources director and chief legal counsel.

The potential impact has been cushioned with the company sourcing more than 70% of the components required to build the railcars within the U.S.

Some politicians remain concerned that the railcars could pose a security risk, as they are produced by a Chinese state-owned company.

Those concerns are unfounded, according to CRRC.

“It is fears that are put out there into the atmosphere based on no facts. The hope is that now that CRRC has been very transparent with what it is doing. With how it is hiring what its plans are, short term and long term that legislators and folks across the nation realize that the message put out previously was an inaccurate one,” Popovic added.

The priority, is to build 10 railcars by October, allowing the CTA to test them for a year, before the company moves into full production.

One of the key elements of this operation is the collaboration between workers from China and the U.S., with many of the U.S. workers having already undergone an intensive training program in China.

That training has continued in Chicago, under the guidance of Chinese ‘masters.’ In time, the workforce will be entirely American, providing some 170 manufacturing, warehouse and professional jobs.

Roberto Rios is part of the assembly team. He’s excited by the future prospects of the operation.

“I truly believe that once we get rolling, they are going to see what kind of product we are making. Everybody here is very proud of what we are doing. So we want to put our best work forward, and get many contracts and put out a good product,” Rios said.

Beyond Chicago, CRRC hopes they to win further contracts across the U.S. Although some politicians still need winning over, these American workers feel they are already on the right track.