On October 15th, 2016, Chinese company PGTEX celebrated the opening of its first manufacturing operation in North America. The opening of the 50,000 square foot facilityincluded a ribbon cutting and events such as a summit on wind power and wine-tastings. PGTEX, based in Changzhou in Jiangsu province, is one of China’s largest producers of composite materials, such as carbon fiber and glass reinforcements, for the wind energy industry.
A spokesperson for the company said PGTEX chose El Paso due to its proximity to Juárez, Mexico. TPI Composites, a US-based company that produces wind turbines and a long-time PGTEX customer, opened a manufacturing facility in Juárez earlier in 2016. PGTEX has already invested $6.7 million in its new El Paso facility and plans to invest an additional $11 million in the coming years. The company also aims to employ 150 local workers within the next four years.
This investment is the latest in increasing Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in the US. In 2015, Chinese FDI in the US reached an estimated record-high of $15.7 billion, a 30% increase from the previous year. Chinese FDI in the first half of 2016 has already surpassed this value with new investments totaling $16.8 billion. Texas is one of the main recipients of Asian FDI, with investments primarily being in the energy sector and employing an estimated 3,600 local workers. In the past, Texas’ 16th congressional district, in the far western corner of the state and home to El Paso, has not received as much FDI from Asia as other districts with larger cities, some of which have sent their mayors on trips to China to seek further trade and investment. The city does, however, have a distinctive educational connection with Asia, unique compared to any other city in the state.
Economic ties between Texas and China are also significant in terms of trade. Last year, China was Texas’ third largest export market, valued at over $11.5 billion. The value of Texas’ exports to China was ranked third in the nation, second only to that of Washington and California. Most of the exports were chemicals, agricultural products, and machinery.
Stephanie Gill is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at the George Washington University.