Opening Ceremony Remarks By Secretary Andrew Cuomo
Grant Hyatt Hotel, Jin Mao Towers
US-China Housing and Finance Cooperation
May 21, 2000
SECRETARY CUOMO: Thank you very much, Madame Xie. It's a pleasure to be here with you.
We had a very successful visit, as you heard, where the Minister of Construction visited the United States. We learned a lot I know from the point of view of the United States. We learned much from that visit. I hope it was as beneficial for the Ministry of Construction. It is a pleasure now to meet here in China following up on that visit.
I would like to thank the Vice Mayor for his warmth and for his hospitality. I've only been in the city a few hours, but I can already feel its energy and its life. My home city is the City of New York, and it is striking to me the similarity and the energy and the vitality of the City of Shanghai and the City of New York. So I feel very much at home.
I'd like to thank the host American company who is hosting this colloquium, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. You'll hear from Mr. Nicholas Latrenta and Mr. Vincent Reusing from Metropolitan Life who are here today. Metropolitan Life is a very significant American institution. Obviously, it is in the life insurance business, but it was, and is, a major housing company at one time in its development, a real estate company in the United States, so it has a long track record and history in these issues.
In many ways, we are here at an historic moment with the WTO agreement and the PNTR, Permanent Normal Trade Relations, vote that's going to be coming up in the United States. As you know, it's been a major priority for President Clinton who has done much work with the Congress of the United States to have a favorable vote from the Congress and we are hopeful that the vote will be favorable. It's just a number of days away, but it has been a major priority for the President and for the entire Administration.
The WTO and PNTR I think will be a transitional point in the relationship between the United States and China and we can literally move to a stronger relationship than we've ever had before. I think in many ways the area that we're discussing, this collaborative -- the housing and finance area -- can serve as a great template for that relationship. The Premier has said that housing reform is a major priority for this country. President Clinton has made the issue of housing a major issue in the United States. First, housing as a basic human need is important -- that people should have shelter, that people should have a place for their family to build and to grow. But also, housing is very much a fundamental economic development building block.
In the United States, housing is 20% of the overall economy -- housing and the housing-related industries. So it's very much the case in the United States, as goes housing goes the entire economy. What's good for housing is good for the economy -- a very large part of the American economy. The housing finance system is in many ways the backbone of the American economic system. Housing is also -- beyond the mere shelter, and even beyond the economic potential -- housing is also a way for people to be vested and rooted in their society and literally own a piece of their own community. So we're excited about what we can do as it's a priority for both nations in terms of an economic vehicle as well as a social investment vehicle.
The specific issue for the colloquium is the primary and secondary market. It is an area that we have some experience. We've learned by trial and error on the primary and secondary market. We've had both successes and failures over the years, and we have now reached the point in the United States where we have a system that is working well and we hope to be able to share some lessons from that. We also hope to be able to learn from your lessons here. The ownership rate in China is higher than the ownership rate in the United States. I don't like to talk about that in the United States because I'm afraid the President may fire me and hire your Minister [laughter], but there is obviously a great success that we can learn from. Also the number of units that you produce and the speed with which you produce them, is a tremendous achievement and we think we can learn from that.
So in many ways, we think this can be a mutually beneficial relationship. I'm excited again especially with the point in time that we are at. It's fitting that we should be doing this today in Jin Mao Towers which is one of the largest, tallest buildings in the world, designed by an American company. It truly symbolizes what this is all about -- what we can achieve together. We can do great things together and it proves we can do more together than either of us could do separately. So it's my pleasure to be a representative of the United States on this very exciting and, I believe, mutually beneficial effort.
Thank you for having me.
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