Officials describe how to do business in China

February 09, 1999

China tradeBy KERRY LYNN FRALEY / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Hagerstown businessman Benjamin F. Kunkleman saw potential for selling his cedar wallpaper in China when he was there on a trade mission in June 1997.

"It just seems a natural to me," said Kunkleman, pointing to China's large population, its appetite for American things and boom in construction.

Considering the difficulty involved in doing business in China, it's not a natural for every company to invest the money and effort to cultivate customers there, the director of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development's Office of International Business said Monday.


However, China offers a great deal of opportunity for companies that have the right product and commitment, said James L. Hughes, who was in Hagerstown to talk about a state-sponsored effort to help Maryland businesses tap into international markets.

Kunkleman, president of The American Cedarworks Inc., was among the audience at Frostburg State University Hagerstown Center's downtown conference center.

Hughes and Shao Ning, managing director of the Maryland Business Center-China in Shanghai, talked about the comprehensive assistance available to Maryland businesses - from market research to help in the negotiation process to assistance in getting timely payment.

"We're not going to do the deal for you. The company has to do the deal. But we want to be as involved as possible," Hughes said.

By becoming a member of the cooperative effort, companies gain personal representation in the Shanghai office, he said.

The cost ranges from $1,000 to $25,000, the latter covering a full-time representative there, Hughes said.

Companies also can get help on an hourly basis, he said. Because of the state sponsorship, Maryland companies get the first eight hours free.

Roughly six Washington County companies are being assisted in some way at this point, Hughes said.

He hopes to increase that number, he said.

While the trade mission hasn't resulted in any sales in China yet, Kunkleman said he's optimistic that representation by the Shanghai office could help his and other Washington County companies become successful exporters to China.

"Without that link, it's just impossible," he said.

The next step is to find other Washington County businesses interested in having a representative in Shanghai and start meeting regularly to plan strategy, Kunkleman said.

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