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Published: Sunday, 9/30/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Bell attacked for business with China

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Death by China writer-director Peter Navarro is fiercely critical of politicians and businessmen doing business with Chinese businesses, investors, or the Communist state’s government. Toledo Mayor Mike Bell is no exception for the filmmaker.

“There’s a great scene in [Death by China] that talks about the dangers of owing so much money to China ... about buying up America one piece at a time,” Mr. Navarro said. “That’s what happened in Toledo and all around this country. In southern California, [Chinese investors] are coming in and buying 40 and 50 houses at a time with cash from the mainland. The people who sold the houses made some money, but down the road what that’s going to mean is less opportunity for people to own their own homes and now have to rent. It’s just so short-sighted.”

About 30 people attended a 7 p.m. showing of Mr. Navarro’s film at Rave Franklin Park on Saturday. The showing began and ended with a question-answer session with Mr. Navarro.

Mr. Navarro said: “Shame on the mayor. Shame on him and shame on any American politician who sells pieces of America to China.”

Mayor Bell rebuked, “Basically he’s saying free enterprise is a bad thing.”

Mr. Bell has been to China three times — and plans to return to that country in November — in an effort to find investors interested in buying land, starting businesses, or investing in existing companies in Toledo.

During his first trip to China in September, 2010, Mr. Bell was introduced to two investors from Dashing Pacific Group Ltd. The company paid the city $2.15 million for the The Docks restaurant complex on March 18, 2011, and $3.8 million for a 69-acre section of the Marina District in East Toledo in July, 2011.

The $3.8 million Marina District deal was almost derailed but went back on track after Mayor Bell returned to China in May, 2011, to meet again with the investors.

Dashing Pacific has been negotiating with potential anchor tenants for the vacant, once polluted industrial land that sat unused for more than a decade.

Speaking about the purchase of the Marina District, the mayor said, “The way I look at it, it has already helped us with our deficit and helped us with re-creating our potential as an international city.”

Mayor Bell went on to say that a business summit hosted in Toledo last week was “extremely successful” and that possible deals — which the mayor expects to come to fruition —in the works.

He declined to discuss what types of deals or possible investments could be in the city’s near future.

Mr. Navarro, 63, has a doctorate in economics from Harvard University and has been an economics professor at University of California, Irvine, for more than two decades. He has appeared on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and on CBS and NBC newscasts as an economics analyst and expert on China. His documentary, which opens Friday in Toledo, addresses what Mr. Navarro considers to be mounting economic dangers to the United States by the Chinese government through unfair and illegal trade practices.

Mr. Navarro said he has been in Ohio since Sept. 5 — he characterized Toledo as “ground zero” and the city’s center one of the “roughest” he’s seen while in the state.

“The tragedy is that Toledo has everything it needs to be a manufacturing center,” he went on to say, noting buildings that could be fixed up and readily occupied. “ ... This is ground zero. If Ohio is ground zero, Toledo is ground zero of the ground zero."

Breann Fisher, 21, a University of Toledo student who, in July, started a business — Allo Dyno — with her brother, said she wanted to see the documentary to “learn how to keep things local” with their new venture.

The company, which sells clothing, art, and jewelry through traveling merchants, plans to have store fronts, Ms. Fisher said, and she said she wants to help create jobs in the United States rather than to sell the company to a Chinese investor and lose any possible growth.

Mr. Navarro also is critical of the the presidential candidates and the trade practices of the Chinese government.

“Both presidential candidates need to make specific promises about what to do about our trade imbalances and the loss of our manufacturing base, those things that we advocate in our movie: balance our trade by 2020 and to crack down on the illegal unfair trade practices that China is engaged in,” he said.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com or 419-724-6054.



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