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Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP): Doing Business with Hong Kong; Annual ESOP (Empowering and Strengthening Ohio's People) Luncheon; Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA) Foreign Policy Forum

On Tuesday morning, September 27th, we went to the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) on Huron Road East for a program about doing business with Hong Kong put on by the GCP and Global Cleveland.

 Mr. Joe Cimperman, President of Global Cleveland, introduced the program and said that it was made possible because Mr. Ralph Chow; img_4809Regional Director, Americas; from the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) was here in Cleveland for the International Economic Development Conference (IEDC) and Ms. Jessica Whale, Global Cleveland's Director of Global Talent and Economic Development worked very hard to organize it.

In addition to Mr. Chow, the speakers were Ms. Amy Freedman, International Trade Specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce; and Mr. Pingshan Li, Partner of Thompson Hine Corporate Transactions and Securities. All three speakers made use of slides in their presentations which was good because what they had to say was very detailed. The GCP promised to email these slides to us so that they might be posted on our website.

The first one to speak was Mr. Chow and his address was titled "Think Asia, Think Hong Kong." Among the points that he made were:

****Asia is rich in opportunities due to GDP growth and consumer expenditure. This is particularly true in the case of China which has a GDP growth projection in 2015 of 6.8% which is much higher than the global growth of 3.1%. China is a growing consumer market due to rising consumption, a growing middle class and a large urban populace. It is a buyer's market and with a strong demand for technology.

****He believed that Hong Kong help can make China more accessible to overseas companies by helping these companies find good business partners, realize profits, cope with bureaucracy, mitigate risks, and retain good quality staff. Hong Kong can also be of assistance because it possesses the strong fundamentals of rule of law; free flow of information, people, goods, and capital and a level playing field. Moreover Hong Kong is a place of economic vibrancy, a low and simple tax system, an international financial center, a platform for Chinese outbound investment, a trendsetter in terms of lifestyle, a regional trading hub, an international technology marketplace among several other things.

****Mr. Chow talked about his organization, the HKTDC which can help bring all this about because it creates opportunities in terms of international trade by providing information, matching business partners and connecting customers. The HKTDC offers trade fairs, product magazines, mobile applications, and is anonline marketplace. To be sure, it is a global organization with 13 offices on the Chinese mainland and more than 40 worldwide.

Next, Ms. Freedman gave a presentation that showed how the U.S. Commercial Service, which is "the export arm of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce", can help U.S. companies conduct business in Asia because it "utilizes its global network of trade professionals to connect U.S. companies with international buyers worldwide." This is done by business matchmaking, trade counseling, targeting the best opportunities, and making use of commercial diplomacy.

The last but no less important speaker was Mr. Li who gave us an overview of the Hong Kong market from a legal prospective. He then discussed business vehicles (i.e. partnerships, sole proprietorships, limited companies) which were available for use. Most significantly, he discussed the pros and cons of using a "holding intermediary" for investing into China and certain details about dispute resolutions aka arbitration.

On this day, we got to meet Ms. Harriet Russell, a speaker/consultantwho wrote a book titled "Doing Business With Ease Overseas" that sounds like something that those conducting trade with other countries should be familiar with.

We also visited with Mr. Louis J. Licata, the President of the Licata Law Firm who told us that he really liked the job fair for Chinese student/entrepreneurs that Margaret W. Wong and Associates put on in April, 2014. He said that he actually hired someone that he met there and the results have been excellent.

Soon after we left the Greater Cleveland Partnership, we headed over to the Ariel International Center on East 40th Street to attend the annual ESOP (Empowering and Strengthening Ohio's People) luncheon.img_4873

The welcome and opening remarks  were given by Mr. Carlos Chavez, ESOP Board President, and Ms. Roslyn Quarto, ESOP Executive Director, who reviewed the progress that ESOP has made over the last year taking particular pride in the successes of the Senior Financial Empowerment Initiative and the Affordable Homeownership Initiative. The latter provided "more than 400 families with the tools and knowledge they need to become sustainable homeowners."

Mr. Chavez and Ms. Quarto set the standard for the rest of the luncheon when they said that partnerships were necessary and ESOP would not be able to accomplish what it has without them and praised the hard work of the other ESOP staff members. Throughout the rest of the luncheon, partnerships and staff were also praised by the other speakers.

At lunch we sat with Mr. Jim Finucan and Mr. Jim Artwell, both from Talmer Bank and Trust. They both told us that they had helped get settled in homes families who immigrated to the United States from such places as Russia and South America. Likewise, Mr. Brian A. Friedman, Executive Director of the Northeast Shores Development Corporation told us that he has worked with immigrants from Europe and the Middle East and would love do work with them more often.

After we finished our meal, the keynote speech was given by Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish who praised the Senior Financial Empowerment Initiative because it has, among other things, taught older adults how to identify and avoid financial exploitation and the basics of financial goal setting and how to budget in order to achieve these goals. Mr. Budish said that assisting seniors has always been a passion of his over the course of his career. He said that ESOP's work has resulted in many people being able to keep their homes in troubled times because when a people lose their homes they lose their "financial security and dignity."

It was then time to present the annual awards and JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging were honored for being excellent community partners for ESOP and for their other contributions to the Cleveland community.

What was particularly touching was when Ms. Barbara Anderson received recognition. Ms. Anderson had been ESOP's second Board President assuming the role after the passing of Ms. Inez Tillman Killingsworth, ESOP's founder and Ms. Anderson's great friend. As Mr. Ronald Faris, President and CEO of OCWEN Financial Corporation presented her with her award, Ms. Anderson said that she was accepting it on behalf all of the people who had worked so hard on behalf of the projects that have been so dear to her over the years. She acknowledged that she was the only one standing on the stage at this time but if all of them were taken into consideration "this stage is crowded and there is barely enough room for me."

Ms. Anderson hoped that during her tenure as President she had proven herself worthy of the honor of being the successor of Ms. Tillman Killingsworth and that the torch would continue to be passed to other worthy individuals because "ESOP's flame must ever be ESOP's light."

Our last event for the day was a Foreign Policy Forum put on by the Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA) at the Union Club of Cleveland on Euclid Avenue.

The speaker was former Ambassador John F. Maisto (retired) who is a "33-year former career member of the U.S. Foreign Service." He served as Ambassador to Venezuela from 1997 to 2000, Nicaragua from 1993 to 1996, and the Organization of American States from 2003 to 2006.img_4892

On this occasion his topic was the current conditions in both Venezuela and Columbia and how both situations have/could be addressed by the United States. As for the latter, Ambassador Maisto made use of the words, "smart diplomacy", "strategic patience", "innovative leadership", "respect for the democratic process", and "flexibility" and identified them as key factors of success.

These are the factors responsible for making "Plan Columbia" apparently successful. Ambassador Maisto was involved in its creation in the late 1990's so he praised Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama for their consistency in implementing it. Provided the Columbian public votes to approve the referendum on October 2nd, as the polling indicates that they will, the internal war involving the drug-running FARC will finally come to a close and a peace will start to be forged.

As for Venezuela, as Ambassador Maisto described it, conditions are "unbelievable" in terms of governmental corruption, economic instability, shortage of necessities, and violence. Nevertheless, he maintained that the best way to handle things would be to respect Venezuela's sovereignty-which is what Venezuelans both there and abroad want the United States to do-and apply the above-mentioned elements to this situation as well even though the achievement of stability might take a while.


In terms of effective solutions, Ambassador Maisto steered away from the use of sanctions, direct involvement of U.S. Armed Forces, and bombastic rhetoric. He did believe though that those committing crimes should be called out on them and perhaps arrested should they leave Venezuela and if the crime they committed was an international crime. We should build-up and make use of the Organization of American States and not be afraid to turn to the Human Rights Groups for help in terms of recording abuse.

During the Q and A, we asked the ambassador if the civil unrest of Venezuela and Columbia had produced much immigration to the United States. His reply was that for the most part, it really had not. He went on to say that most of the immigrants who come to the United States via the U.S./Mexican border come from Mexico or the Northern Triangle of Central America. He did note, however, that many wealthy Venezuelans were departing their country and moving to Miami, Florida where they will purchase expensive real estate and cause the prices to go up just as wealthy Columbians had done when they left their country around 2000.

We really admired Ambassador Maisto and wish there were more people of his strong principles in the public light right now. We are glad to say that even though he now retired as a diplomat he is still active with such entities as the International Student Exchange Program.

We met and had a long conversation with his daughter, Ms. Maria Maisto who is an adjunct Professor of English at Cuyahoga Community College and President of the "New Faculty Majority" which "is dedicated to improving the quality of higher education by advancing professional equity and securing academic freedom for all adjunct and contingent faculty."

Other people that we talked to that night at the Union Club were Mr. Gabor Brachna who was at the Hungarian Monument dedication in Fairport Harbor last Sunday; Ms. Diana De La Rosa and Ms. Joan McCarthy who both served on the Board of Notre Dame College with Ms. Margaret W. Wong; and Mr. Rolland E. Swegan who suggested that we check out a group called the Japan Association of Northeast Ohio which we intend to do.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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