By Liz White, UT editor
Salt Lake City, Utah-Governor of the State of Utah Jon Huntsman Jr proved an excellent scene setter for the 2006 Technical Conference of the Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry, being held in Salt Lake City, Utah, 25-27 Sept. He got the three-day meeting off to a rousing start Sept 25th with a thorough overview of the globalisation pressures facing the polyurethanes sector.
Discussing the China effect, Huntsman, who has inside knowledge of the polyurethanes sector, having worked in the Huntsman PU business before venturing into politics, said that this year, China will be scrutinised as a trader and member of the World Trade Organisation, "as never before," with issues such as steel subsidies and automotive distribution receiving particularly close attention.
"Economic growth in China has been a great source of pride [for the government]," Huntsman pointed out, and has run at 8-10 percent for the last 25 years. Their issue is "how to sustain this while preserving their grip on power," he added.
This year sees a new Five-Year Plan from the Chinese government and president, "focussing largely on domestic stability," and on spreading the wealth generated in the coastal regions to the inland western parts of the country, places where there has been "little or no economic development," he said.
Huntsman listed unemployment, corruption and rural unrest as important issues for the country, and said "serious reform of the banking system" is needed. Already this is moving ahead, since the WTO accession means that foreign banks will soon be able to do local currency business, he said.
Welcoming the assembled delegates, Doug Warner of Dow Chemical Co., chair of the API steering committee, emphasised the importance and value for the polyurethanes sector of coming together as a group, "especially in volatile times like 2005 and the first half of 2006."
The industry continues to grow, "Demand is rising," Warner continued, adding that there are "unprecedented challenges," and the sector faces some difficult circumstances.
"We need to share our experiences of these issues," Warner continued, highlighting, for the more than 950 delegates, panel discussions on just such issues: natural disasters, indoor air quality, energy conservation, and globalisation.
Governor Huntsman, meanwhile, amused delegates with an anecdote in which he said his grandfather, a music teacher and fine educator, had been disappointed when his son chose to go into business.
In turn, "I was raised in a great family business," Hunstman said, adding that his father's view was, "If you can't make it in business, you go into politics."
"I stand before you as a loser," the Governor confessed.