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US-China biz group taps Allen’s diplomatic skills

Craig Allen, new president of the US-China Business Council, talks tariffs with CEO Update

Craig Allen with Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the United States, at a Sept. 6 luncheon welcoming Allen as the new president of USCBC. Photo: Kaveh Sardari

Sept. 28, 2018
By James Cullum

Craig Allen took over as the sixth president of the US-China Business Council in July, and he still hasn’t had time to decorate his office. Prints of founding fathers George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin along with Martin Luther King Jr. face his desk from across the room, but they haven’t been hung on the wall. The former U.S. ambassador has been a little busy contending with the escalating trade war with China.

Allen was ambassador to Brunei Darussalam for four years before joining USCBC, and a member of the Senior Foreign Service since 1999.

“I resigned on the day that the president said trade wars are good and are easy to win,” Allen told CEO Update. “The ambassador is always the personal representative of the president, and that is a sacred obligation. … I found myself in a position where I was not able to do that, and therefore I respectfully resigned.”

The USCBC represents 200 American companies that do business with China, including Walmart, Boeing and Coca-Cola.

“This was the only job that I was really interested in, as this job as president of the US-China Business Council very closely approximates what I’ve done with the rest of my career,” he said. “The board, I believe, was looking for China experience, and I was a senior negotiator on the U.S. team and I know the issues very well. They were also looking to increase the public prestige of the organization and for it to play a larger role in the trade debate.”

Allen, who is taking a delegation of board members to Beijing in October, has spent much of his time talking to media outlets in the U.S. and China. He said that the delegation will encourage Chinese officials to implement urgent reforms.

Allen was raised in Japan, speaks fluent Japanese and Chinese, and received his master’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University. He began his government career with the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration. He has spent much of his career in Asia, including three separate postings to China.

President Trump has imposed tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese exports, resulting in China retaliating with tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods.

“The United States is a much richer place if we are able to work out our problems with China,” Allen said. “China has 20 percent of the world’s population, while we only have 5 percent and it is probable that the Chinese economy will become larger than ours in the foreseeable future.”