While U.S.-China trade tensions continue to escalate at the federal level, some experts and business leaders in Texas voiced the state's desire to continue its trade relationship with China.
The U.S.-China trade war became a focus of "Chinese Investment in the U.S.: The Path Forward", a conference hosted by China General Chamber of Commerce-USA (CGCC), which gathered experts, business leaders and government officials in Houston on Wednesday.
"We can spend an entire day debating the facts and analysis of how we got here today," said Xu Chen, president and CEO of Bank of China USA and the chairman of CGCC during an opening speech. "The fact remains though that U.S. exports of goods to China have grown by 86 percent over the last decade, while exports to the rest of the world grew by only 21 percent."
The CGCC aims to enhance cooperation through dialogue and discussion between the U.S. and Chinese business communities. It serves 1,500 Chinese member companies that have collectively invested over $120 billion and employ more than 200,000 people throughout the U.S., including Texas.
The Lone Star State is also the second-largest state in the U.S.. The top commodities that it exports include petroleum and coal products, chemicals, computers and electronic products, machinery and medical devices.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated that trade supports 3,150,600 Texas jobs. Around $5.4 billion in Texas exports to China are targeted for retaliation. Its hardest hit industries would be liquefied propane, grain sorghum and cotton.
According to Bob Harvey, president and CEO of Greater Houston Partnership, an economic development organization that represents over 1,200 member companies in the 11-county Houston region, China is Houston's second-biggest and fastest growing trading partner.
"We have been concerned by the climate of the current trade dispute with China," Harvey said. "It has the potential to very negatively impact the Houston economy, and even impact our long-term future."
Although the impact from the tariffs isn't immediately available in terms of trade data, Harvey warned that the toxic business environment generated by the trade disputes could stall business deals.
"What we worry about are the negotiations that were underway to do major deals," Harvey said, "the deals that have not yet been completed, that can't be completed in this environment."
Dexter Burleigh, president and CEO of Surge Energy, a U.S. subsidiary of Shandong Xinchao Energy Corporation Limited in Texas, echoed that sentiment.
"I think from our perspective, the concern is more on the greater and broader impact on the relationship between the two countries and how that could bleed over into a more contentious business environment," Burleigh said.
The Trump Administration imposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports, to which China has responded in kind.
The U.S. then followed with the announcement of the imposition of 10 to 25 percent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, which included everyday household items such as seafood, furniture and bicycles. In response, China threatened to slap duties on $60 billion of U.S. imports.
Despite the months-long trade standoff, some local officials said they value a good relationship between the U.S. and China.
Judge Bob Herbert of Fort Bend County, another speaker at the conference, welcomed the investment of Chinese businesses in his district.
"We have a very large Asian population, and a significant percentage of that population has its roots in China, we see that as a blessing," Herbert said. "Our relationships with China in business, culture and education will continue to grow."