Tuesday AM December 22nd, 2009

A $5.25 billion plan to triple the Panama Canal's capacity finishes in 2014, opening the way for huge cargo vessels from Asia to come to Houston. Ed Mayberry reports.

cargo shipWalmart and Home Depot have built millions of square feet of warehouse space around Houston, in anticipation of increased business ties with China.  The Port of Houston already handles more foreign tonnage than any other U.S. port.  Houston companies setting up ties in China have a lot of legal and operational aspects to consider, as Bob Mullins with Hughes Watters Askanase explains.

"The shipping business is very big, now that there's so much export from China. But the most important thing is to have someone — several someones — on the ground wherever you're going to be doing business in China, and to be establishing the relationships with the people that you're going to be working with — the governmental people and the rest.  Relationships are extremely important in China — probably more important than anything else."

Mullins says the most successful partnerships with Chinese companies are based on this understanding.

"In the West, we are lands of laws, and China is a land of relationships.  Once they know who you are, they are very willing to cooperate with you to see that you are successful."

Ed: "What about the other way around, where Chinese companies approach business in the West.  Do they, where's the give-and-take on that?"

"To be honest with you, we're just starting to discover that, and I don't know the answer to that yet.  It remains to be seen whether they will be as willing to set up those kind of relationships."

Mullins has worked with an American joint venture doing business with a Chinese shipyard and with the construction of a large manufacturing facility in the Chinese Export Processing Zone.

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...