Emanuel heads to China to save $1.3 billion CTA deal

via Crain’s by Greg Hinz

On the day when an all-out trade war broke out between China and the United States, City Hall disclosed that Mayor Rahm Emanuel will fly there next week as part of a trade trip that also will take him to Japan.

Emanuel’s self-described main goal: Saving a $1.3 billion deal between the CTA and a Chinese firm to assemble new el cars on the Southeast Side, a deal that’s threatened as the U.S. and China engage in a growing round of tariffs and counter-tariffs.

“I don’t want this plant (at 135th and Torrence) to fall victim to some sort of tit for tat between the U.S. and Chinese governments,” Emanuel told me in a phone interview. “I believe in fair trade. But this is the wrong way to go about it.”

The factory would use a combination of parts, some made in the U.S. and some in China. It would employ about 200 people, the first large-scale rail facility in decades in a section of the city that was built by railroad car magnate George Pullman.

But as I reported earlier this year, President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs—on $34 billion of imports announced today, and maybe more later—could raise costs or even jeopardize the deal entirely.

Emanual said he plans to meet with top executives from el car maker CRRC Sifang America, as well as officials from the Chinese government. “The main thing on this trip is to ensure that the rail plant does not become a victim of this trade war,” Emanuel said. “This is a critical part of my economic strategy . . . made and produced here in Chicago.”

Also in China, the mayor said he expects to announce new nonstop air service between Chicago and China, and a deal in which the Bank of China will add 40 to 50 jobs here.

He’ll also meet with the mayor of Beijing, the third during his tenure as Chicago’s chief executive.

In Japan, Emanuel said he expects to sign a gateway agreement with the Japanese government that should boost its investment here, as well as meet with a range of corporate and corporate officials.

Emanuel, whose trip likely won’t hurt him any as he prepares to seek re-election in what could be a difficult race, will leave on Monday, July 10, and return the next weekend.

Among those traveling with Emanuel will be several real estate development execs, including officials from CBRE, JLL and Farpoint Development; Loop Capital CEO Jim Reynolds; tech maven Howard Tullman and SPAAN Tech CEO Smita Shah. A few pols will be along as well, including lobbyist and ex-Ald. Bill Singer, 43rd, and current City Council members Michelle Harris, 8th, Patrick Thompson, 11th, and Marge Laurino, 39th.

Costs of the trip are being paid by World Business Chicago, the city’s public-private economic development unit.

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