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Business leaders told opportunity exists even in turbulent international economy

SALT LAKE CITY — The tumble and rise of the U.S. stock market and the growing influence of global economies was in clear focus here this week as business and civic experts mixed with politicians and others at the Utah Global Forum Wednesday.

“We realize we are in a global economy. What happens in China has a direct impact on what’s happening in business in Utah,” said Derek Miller, president and CEO of the World Trade Center Utah, which together with the Governor's Office of Economic Development sponsored the day-long forum.

“Everything in business is about managing or mitigating risk and maximizing opportunity. It’s the same in the international realm. You got to know what those risks are in order to manage them,” he said.

And steering through those turbulent waters was part of the message for the 400 business and civic leaders in attendance at the Salt Palace Convention Center. The goal of forum was to help local businesses better understand how to export more successfully, adapt to the global marketplace and access untapped markets.

China, in the midst of economic upheaval, has seen its stock market fall more than 40 percent in recent weeks noteworthy for all business exporting and investing overseas; Utah companies export four times more than the national average.That made breakout sessions on cybersecurity, international marketing, supply chain management and global financing noteworthy.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was the keynote speaker and said China is still going through some “growing pains” that have significant effects in Utah and worldwide. Flake advised local businesses to pay close attention to how global markets react to China’s economic growth policies.

“You’ve got to ride these most recent problems out,” he said. “I believe this signals long-term slower growth for China. But the market is still big and it is still growing. I just don’t think you’ll see the rate of growth that a lot of people expected.”

Flake said the troubles in China have highlighted how interdependent the global economy has become.

“This development in China has really affected everyone,” he said.

Flake is also an outspoken proponent of easing trade and travel limitations with Cuba and stands behind the ideal that strengthening the bond between the United States and Israel is vitally beneficial for both countries.

This month, he accompanied Secretary of State John Kerry to Cuba to recognize the re-established U.S. Embassy in Havana. Mentioning his support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Flake said bolstering trade relations should be a priority, with far-reaching benefits for states such as Utah.

“Hopefully we can conclude these negotiations (for the Trans-Pacific Partnership) and put it before Congress and fast track it,” he said. “I hope that the Obama administration gets together on some other trade agreements that the next administration can pick up.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed trade agreement between several Pacific Rim countries concerning a variety of economic policy issues. The proposal seeks to lower trade barriers such as tariffs, establish a common framework for intellectual property, enforce standards for labor law and environmental law, as well as form an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism.

The stated goal of the agreement is to "enhance trade and investment among the (Trans-Pacific Partnership) countries to promote innovation, economic growth and development, and to support the creation and retention of jobs."

The proposal is considered the companion agreement to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a similar deal between the United States and the European Union.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said despite the economic troubles in China and Europe, the state is still well positioned to prosper in the long-term in the global marketplace.

“We’ll weather this storm. Utah is strong,” Herbert said. “There is a concern that international policies will be detrimental America’s future. But eventually the marketplace will find that optimal point.”

Utah’s diverse economy and strong foundation will help the state overcome the issues of the sometimes volatile global market, the governor said.

“I’m optimistic about the future. There are challenges, ups and downs that are certainly part of our future,” Herbert said. “If we make sure we have good policies in place, we’ll survive when others may not.”

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