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Stephen Olson at Chinese Development Institute Conference

 

 Clyde Prestowitz giving presentation to CDI...

 

Steve Olson teaching trade negotiations at the Mekong Institute...

 

Stephen Olson to speak at upcoming workshop organized by the International Institute for Trade and Development on 

"Economics of GMS Agricultural trade in goods and services towards the world market"

Chiangmai, Thailand Sep 8-12.

(07/26/05) Clyde Prestowitz quoted in the Tallahassee Democrat

(07/26/05) Clyde Prestowitz quoted in the Tallahassee Democrat
Tallahassee Democrat (FL)
Copyright 2005 Tallahassee Democrat
July 26, 2005


China hires prominent lobbyists
Nation seeking greater influence in Washington
By William Neikirk, CHICAGO TRIBUNE

The ritual dance between lobbyists and lawmakers is as old as the capital itself. Monied interests lubricate the federal government to try to get their way.

The ritual dance between lobbyists and lawmakers is as old as the capital itself. Monied interests lubricate the federal government to try to get their way.

And the latest player, China, is also the largest, with the potential to accelerate the pace of globalization in new and unexpected ways with extraordinary stakes for U.S. businesses and the nation's economy.

China is showing a deftness that belies its newness, hiring big-name lobbyists to overcome anti-Chinese sentiment in the nation's capital.

Charles Black, a longtime fixture in Republican politics and an admiral in the capital's K Street lobbyist fleet, has become the latest consultant hired to represent CNOOC, a Chinese oil company, in its controversial effort to take over the American oil giant Unocal. The hiring of Black reveals much about China's strategic acumen in seeking to wield greater influence in Washington.

It comes on top of CNOOC's retention of a prominent Washington law firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and a public-relations firm, Public Strategies, whose vice chairman produced most of the television campaign ads for President Bush's two winning White House runs.

As a result, said a GOP consultant, the government-owned oil company has assembled "a gold-plated team of advisers. They've gone with the A-Team."

Unfortunately for its members and CNOOC, the "A-Team" has run into a storm of opposition. And the CNOOC deal may not come off at all after the Unocal board accepted Chevron's revised offer to buy the company.

A growing lobby

Despite these troubles, CNOOC's bold move to use powerful lobbyists to try to sway the political culture in Washington for its economic interests appears to be the first wave of a growing China lobby in the nation's capital, and one that has strong echoes of the presence of Japanese interests in Washington in the 1980s.

"It's going to get bigger," said Clyde Prestowitz, president of the Economic Strategy Institute and author of a book on China's economic relations with the United States. "There is going to be more Chinese investment because they are swimming in dollars."

Donald Straszheim, a California economic consultant and China expert, predicted the Chinese would be seeking to buy more American companies, possibly Lucent Technologies, and would need Washington lobbying expertise.

China's decision Thursday to revalue its currency could ease American criticism of its trade policies and soften opposition to the CNOOC deal.

Distrust of the Chinese

The Chinese bid for Unocal has laid bare some harsh feelings about how far lobbyists should go in representing state-owned enterprises and triggered anti-Chinese rhetoric on Capitol Hill. In many respects, the deal - even if doesn't go through - could determine how extensive Chinese lobbying becomes in the future.

"If they are successful, I think the Chinese would look at this (lobbying) and say, 'This is something we would continue to do,'" said Glen Bolger, a Republican consultant and pollster. "There are a lot of risks for firms in the U.S. to do that. They (Akin Gump) have already come under public criticism for it. I don't think it it's quite the same thing as doing work for a European country and many other parts of the world. There is a distrust of the Chinese system and the government."

But Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., an ardent opponent of the CNOOC deal and a strong critic of Akin Gump's representation of the Chinese, nonetheless saw an increase in Chinese lobbying in the future because it can be lucrative and because China is growing. According to the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan organization that tracks political money, China spent less than a $1 million last year on lobbying in the United States.

But in case CNOOC succeeds in the purchase of Unocal, Black and Akin Gump would seek to help the company win approval by a Bush administration committee, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

Unocal deal criticized

The lobbying community was abuzz with rumors last week that the Chinese contracts with Akin Gump, Public Strategies and Black could total more than $1 million a month.

But Black said that he was making only a fraction of the $200,000 a month that other lobbying sources said he might be getting. Akin Gump and Public Strategies would not disclose how much their joint contract with CNOOC is yielding their firms. If there is no deal for Unocal, however, the contracts could be short-lived.

Akin Gump is a venerable, highly respected Washington firm with prominent lawyers in both political parties.

All those connections and experience, though, ran against a strong anti-Chinese juggernaut in Congress. The House approved a bipartisan resolution condemning the deal and Wolf sharply criticized Akin Gump for representing a company owned by a Chinese government he said is guilty of human-rights abuses and even genocide.

Dan Spiegel, an Akin Gump partner working on the deal, said "one of the big mistakes here is that this is not the Chinese government," but an oil firm, though state-run, with its own credit rating and own businesses, and one-third ownership by private investors.

China's hiring of consultant Charles Black to represent Chinese oil company CNOOC comes on top of CNOOC's retention of a prominent Washington law firm,

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and a public-relations firm, Public Strategies, whose vice chairman produced most of the television campaign ads for President Bush's two winning White House runs.

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