National Retail Federation President Matthew Shay traveling to China in effort to strengthen U.S. retail industry's ties with fellow retailers, manufacturers, says China is 'integral to the success of the U.S. retail industry'

WASHINGTON , October 17, 2011 () – National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay will travel to China this week for a four-day trade mission intended to strengthen the U.S. retail industry’s ties with fellow retailers, manufacturers, other businesses and both U.S. and Chinese government officials. The trip is the first in a series of NRF visits to other nations to position U.S. retailers for growth around the world.

“China is integral to the success of the U.S. retail industry,” Shay said. “High quality, high value merchandise produced by Chinese factories is key to U.S. retailers’ ability to supply American families with the products they need and want at prices they can afford, greatly expanding the consumer value we offer. But China is also a nation in transition, and as a rapidly growing economy, it represents a huge new market where U.S. retailers and brands hope to expand as they grow beyond U.S. borders. This trip is intended to build upon the already strong ties retailers have in China and look for opportunities that will be mutually beneficial as the economies of both our nations grow and evolve.”

Shay is scheduled to leave Washington today and arrive on Wednesday in Beijing, where he will meet with officials of the Chinese Chain Store and Franchise Association and the China Commerce Association for General Merchandise. On Friday, he will be in Guangzhou for the 110th annual China Import and Export Fair, where more than 350,000 international retailers, buyers and exhibitors come together each year to discuss economic and cultural exchange, foreign trade and investment. Shay, who will be accompanied by NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French, will return on Saturday after interviews with Chinese journalists that morning.

Shay is also scheduled to meet with officials at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to address U.S.-imposed trade barriers that drive up the cost of merchandise, Chinese rules that restrict U.S. retailers’ ability to open stores there, delays in processing visas for Chinese citizens traveling to the United States to shop or for business, and legislation pending in Congress that would pressure China to let its currency float more freely against the U.S. dollar.

“Washington has been quick to respond to political pressure by imposing restrictions on trade with China, but the truth is that these restrictions do little if anything to protect or create U.S. jobs,” Shay said. “Most of the merchandise retailers import from China simply isn’t made in the United States at affordable prices or in commercial quantities anymore. Trade barriers that keep our industry from sourcing goods in China mean that the trade simply shifts to other foreign countries. U.S. policymakers need to see China as a market and a valuable trading partner, not the enemy.”

NRF strongly opposes legislation being debated in the Senate this week that would use countervailing duty and antidumping mechanisms to pressure China to revalue its currency. NRF has warned that the legislation would likely violate World Trade Organization rules, leading to retaliation against U.S. exports and putting the jobs of workers at American companies that do business with China at risk. NRF believes the yuan should be allowed to float, but supports multilateral and diplomatic negotiations as the best approach.

NRF supports legislation sponsored by Representative Joe Heck, R-Nev., that would require the State Department to reduce the time for processing visa applications to 12 days. Chinese citizens currently wait 120 days or more for a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulates, discouraging tourists who want to visit the United States to shop and causing difficulties for U.S. retailers that need to bring management from their stores in China to the United States for training.

China is the leading supplier of imported merchandise for U.S. retailers, providing about $300 billion in goods each year, accounting for 80 percent of Chinese exports. But with Chinese wages and the value of the yuan growing, China is becoming more expensive as a source of merchandise and more attractive as a market. Chinese wages have risen 40 percent in the past year because of a shortage of skilled workers, while the value of the yuan has risen 30 percent since 2005 and 7 percent since July 2010.

Shay’s visit to China is a key element of the “Retail Means Jobs” campaign NRF launched last month to bolster the economy and job creation. In addition to China issues, NRF’s trade agenda under the campaign includes an international push to highlight the importance of retail to the global economy, approval of pending Free Trade Agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea, and renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences.

As the world’s largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, NRF’s global membership includes retailers of all sizes, formats and channels of distribution as well as chain restaurants and industry partners from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad. In the United States, NRF represents an industry that includes more than 3.6 million establishments and which directly and indirectly accounts for 42 million jobs – one in four U.S. jobs. The total U.S. GDP impact of retail is $2.5 trillion annually, and retail is a daily barometer of the health of the nation’s economy.

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