On February 26th, 2020, the American Chamber of Commerce in Southwest Chinasuccessfully held the U.S. Consulate General Chengdu Con-call Regarding with the Novel Coronavirus. U.S. Consulate General Chengdu Consul General Jim Mullinax together with Consular Officers had in-depth exchange of views on issues concerning the trend of COVID-19, the development of its vaccine, visa imformation, international logistic transportation, etc. This conference attracted nearly 30 AmCham members, CEOs and senior managers from Fortune 500 companies and local well-known enterprises.
First of all, Mr. Benjamin Wang, Chairman of AmCham SW, delivered an opening speech. He took this opportunity to extend his paramount respect to all front-line staff and praise member companies for actively taking social responsibility. He outlined the efforts of the AmCham Southwest member companies have done during this special period and AmCham’s upcoming work arrangements to assist members. Then, Mr. Jim Mullinax, Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General Chengdu welcomed everyone and shared the remarks about an update from the consulate regarding the current situation of the COVID-19 virus outbreak, including an overview of the epidemic situation, travel warning, what the US has done in the US, what the US has done to help China, and the likely profile for next month. In the end, during the Q&A session, AmCham members and friends raised questions about the challenges and concerns they’re facing, which were answered thoughtfully by consular officers.
During this special period, AmCham Southwest has maintained closely contact with provincial and municipal governments. In the coming work, we will bring our real-time policy interpretations regularly to members and friends. We’re also expecting more feedbacks to help us to hold more beneficial events in the future. Let us be full of confidence and expectations to welcome the revival of all things.
Q1: There was a 14-day quarantine plan once you return Chengdu. Is there a similar plan like that if US citizens who try to go back to the US?
A：At this time, there’s a plan to recognize self-quarantine in USA. What will happen to people traveling to the US is that they will be asked to go through 11 specified airports including Honolulu, San Francisco, Seattle, LAX, DFW, Chicago, Atlanta, Dulles, JFK, Detroit, and Newark. When you go through these airports, and you come from China or you have been to China in the last 14 days, you will be checked and questioned at the airport by CDC, and if you have no symptoms, you will be allowed to proceed on your final destination. And you will be asked to self-quarantine there at your final destination. Once you get through the 14-day period, then you won’t have any obligation to report to your state health authorities any longer. You will be allowed to travel to your final destination immediately.
Q2: When can we start to apply for business and working visas? When can start to apply for K/Visa? What are the student visa policies?
A: Please read the Presidential Proclamation regarding visas. （www.ustraveldocs.com）
Q3: Do you have any information about vaccination has been developed for COVID-19?
A: I know that a large number of pharmaceutical companies are working together with the National Institute of Health in the US try to develop a vaccine. That will take at shortest many months. So even if things go very well, vaccine would not come out until later this year, and it needs to be tested before it becomes available to the public.
Q4: Does the Chengdu government have any special requirements for the start time of international schools?
A: The requirements for international schools to open are very much similar to the requirements for normal national schools to open in China. So every school must have plans in place to ensure that all of the students and teachers coming in have not travelled to Hubei, having their temperatures checked regularly, facilities clean, and sufficient protective equipment for their front-line staff. Teachers and students have been asked to quarantine themselves for 14 days before entering the school. At this time, many international schools have expressed their hope that they will reopen by Mar. 23rd. However, that depends on many factors including the ability of teachers and many outside students to come back. For now, I know many international schools in Chengdu are going to online classes and plan to continue to do it until they are able to reopen.
Q5: If American companies are invited to come to Chongqing for business events this year, do they need to follow additional procedures?
A: So far, from the US side, no. There are no additional procedures for anyone who wants to travel to China. Of course, we do have our travel advisory which at this time recommends people not to travel in China. For example, the Chongqing government has asked that certain individuals to quarantine themselves when they come to Chongqing. If you are coming from other country into Chongqing, you still need to quarantine yourself for 14 days. If you are an American, after the 14-days quarantine you can travel back to the US, and then you may be asked to self-monitor. But there are no US requirements or prohibitions on travelling anywhere in China.
Q6: We are a raw material export company. Due to the U.S. epidemic is spreading, what do you think of the epidemic situation in the US?
A：I don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future, but I will say that there are only about 50 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the US. Most of those people were infected on the cruise ship – the Diamond Princess. However, we wholly expect it will be more. We’re spending lots of time and effort preparing for that kind of situation. So, I’m very hopeful that we will be able to handle the outbreak of COVID-19 cases in places around the US. However, It could very well expect the way that companies are able to do business and people are able to travel through certain areas. I think in many ways we have learned very good lessons from what the Chinese authorities have done and have not done. And we will do our best to control any outbreak that may occur.
Q7: In terms of China-US import and export logistics, does the United States have restrictive policies?
A: There’s no new restrictions on goods shipped from China. We had very positive developments at the end of last year where we agreed to a new Phase One Trade Deal. That deal lifted some restrictions and reduced tariffs on goods and services. We are not prohibiting any new goods coming from China under this virus situation. Right now, our hope is to increase the flow of goods in both directions. So, there are no new restrictions on Chinese products going to the US.
Q8: The 2019-nCoV outbreak has a significant influence on international headhunting industry, lots of foreign candidates concern about working in China these days as well as after the outbreak. I want to know if the Consulate can estimate the trend of this outbreak officially. And in a recent future time, are there any extra requirements the U.S. Consulate will impose on American candidate under both trends of this outbreak? Will the Consulate offer some helps? And is there any suggestion on international employees in China at this phase?
A: This time I would like to point people to back to our travel advisory, which said it’s not a good time to come to China. Certainly, individuals have their own choice to come or not. We don’t stop people from coming to China, if they would like to come to China and work here. I know Chinese government agencies that provide working visas and other types of necessary paper work are not yet working at full capacity. Perhaps in a few weeks, I expect they will begin to resume their normal operations, it still takes some time. For American citizens who are coming to China to work, they may face some obstacles right now in securing their working visa or completing the paper works they need. There’s no proclamation on Americans coming here to work, and we’re not going to stop anyone who wants to come to China.
Q9: At present, our businesses in Europe and British are expanding, how will the outbreak in America and Europe affect the future development? And what kind of help American government can provide?
A: I guess that there will be more cases in the US and Europe, even around the world. I hope that will not be serious. I think people can learn about a lot from those positive and negative things that happened in China. So I hope that we will be more prepared so that we are more likely able to address any negative impact early. That’s the strategy right now in the US, trying to raise the awareness and prepare for any additional cases in the US. Maybe you have European friends or have business in Europe, and I’m hopeful that it will be able to overcome any major challenges and keep the virus under control.
Q10: Will the United States restrict exports of Chinese products, especially medicines and food?
A: At this time, there’s no new restriction on Chinese export to the US, so that also includes drug. We’re very happy to continue to trade as much as we normally would with our Chinese partners. We have no intention this time restricting any shipments from the US. It is much more difficult for shipments to go to the US right now because in some cases there are transportation bottlenecks that have slow things down. But there are no new restrictions on the US side of goods and services coming from China.
Q11: What does U.S government think the COVID-19 epidemics is heading forward in all over the world? When the visa and the international flight can take up again between Chengdu and the US?
A: It’s a very good question. In fact I was just talking about this very issue with my consulate colleagues around China and trying to discuss the differences that we see in places like Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang, Chengdu, Beijing, and of course in Wuhan. We’ve all recognized that there are big differences between the different places in China. And certain parts of China have been more affected by this, obviously like Wuhan, but certain places have been much less affected, like in Chengdu. Now, the Presidential Proclamation is one of currently the major obstacles for individuals to travel from China to the US. At this time I’m not hearing any plans to narrow that to be more specific in this one region of China. At present, there are more cases discovered in South Korea, Italy, and Iran. We might even see that Proclamation extended to other countries. There are some important differences across China. But it is too early to tell what will happen when people begin to go back to work and school. It will take some time to make that case out.
Q12: We are really concerned about the latest information about the virus, do you have the plan like this con-call again whenever there are new information to share?
A: I’ll be very happy to have a con-call like this in the future. And also, I am very glad to communicate with you all. And I’ll be very happy to participate such online conference if AmCham Southwest China would be willing to organize similar type of the meeting in several weeks or as situation changes.