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Officials Talk Economic Relationships at US-China Forum

By Carolina I. Portela-Blanco, Crimson Staff Writer

Keynote speakers at the Harvard US-China Economic Forum stressed the importance of building economic relationships abroad, as well as fostering connections among domestic groups, on Saturday in Northwest Labs.

Robert L. Holden, the former governor of Missouri; Keiko M. Orrall, a state representative in the Massachusetts Legislature; and Steve Barclay, the director of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York, gave keynote addresses at the forum.

Barclay said Hong Kong has historically served the role of connecting China with the rest of the world and spoke about its status as a global financial center.

Holden, who is also the chairman of the Midwest U.S.-China Association, spoke about the future of the U.S. economy and discussed challenges the country will face in the future.

He argued that many of the advantages the United States had in the past, such as geographic isolation, are no longer relevant for future economic growth.

“The technology revolution of the last 40 years has changed all of us,” Holden said. “What physical barriers protected our economy in the past are no longer relevant today.”

Holden said the U.S. needs to embrace globalization as a strategy for the future and marked the importance of global bilateral relationships.

“No longer are we a self-contained economy,” said Holden, who also argued that the government should encourage building relationships between academic institutions, like-minded businesses, and governmental institutions.

Speaking about the need for immigration reform and his role in promoting the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, Holden said connections start with young people and “immigration is where we build the foundations for those connections to grow.”

Orrall, who is the first Asian American woman to serve in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, also stressed the need for communication and relationships in the domestic political arena.

She criticized what she described as partisanship in the current political landscape, especially at the federal level, describing what she called the “lack of communication and the unwillingness to build relationships across party lines.”

The event was hosted by the Harvard US-China Economic Interaction Council, a student organization that is affiliated with the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

The group organized different panels throughout the day with leaders in finance and entrepreneurship, allowing for attendees to ask them questions live either directly or through an online platform. Attendees also had the opportunity to interact with the panelists and keynote speakers during a networking session held after the conference.

—Staff writer Carolina I. Portela-Blanco can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @cportelablanco.

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