Zhou Jun, general manager of China Ceramics City/China Ceramic Industry Headquarters, receives a certificate of appreciation from Ceramic Tile Distributors Association executive director Rick Church (center) and Rob Henry, CTDA president and Henry Tile, Montgomery, AL, for presenting and sponsoring the recent 2008 U.S. China Trade Mission for ceramic tile and stone.

Trade Mission participants Jon Zachman, Ceramic Tileworks, Maple Grove, MN, and Karen Olah, Mid-America Tile, Elk Grove Village, view some of the new Dongpeng porcelain products with He Xinming, president of Dongpeng.

United States ceramic tile distributors and manufacturers recently participated in the 2nd U.S. China Trade Mission to gain first-hand information from Chinese ceramic and stone manufacturers, tour factories and discussed ways of building business partnerships during the U.S. China Ceramic Forum.

China Ceramics City, the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association, the U.S. China Ceramic Tile Association, and the city of Foshan sponsored the trade mission.

Both Chinese manufacturing executives and U.S. ceramic tile distributors were on hand for the U.S. China Ceramic Forum. One Chinese manufacturer said, “More communication is needed to know the U.S. market. Service, brand and design are problems. In five years, we will make great improvements.”

Said Newzhongci Ceramic Co. (NCC) president Li Ju Xiang, “Chinese manufacturers are not looking for quick sales from the Trade Mission, but rather a long-term partnership with U.S. distributors and manufacturers.”

Trade mission participant Harold Yarborough of D & B Tile Distributors, Sunrise, Fla. voiced the need that U.S. distributors need more consistent manufacturing with smaller order commitments. Packaging and shading were issues of concern for Rudy Llerena, D & B Tile Distributors, Miami.

Jodi Henry of Robert Henry Tile Co., Montgomery, Ala., added Chinese manufacturers need to provide marketing tools for the commercial segment, technical data and use U.S. photos for ceramic products that are going to be marketed and sold in the United States; product packaging should utilize the same stacking pattern and logo; and strive to increase partner trust and loyalty.

Jim Thayer of Eleganza Tile, Fullerton, Calif., stressed the importance of having trim pieces and tile sizes designed for the U.S. market.

Andy Chen, senior advisor, China Building Ceramics and Sanitary Ware Association acted as moderator of the featured forum where both Chinese manufacturers and U.S. distributors presented ideas on expanding business partnerships.

Helen Wang of Foshan HiYi Artistic Building Material Co., Ltd., suggested some ways to better work with Chinese manufacturers: select a Chinese agent with excellent verbal and written language skills to communicate with the manufacturer, avoid using substitute suppliers, and ensure a member of the team is able to communicate in Chinese. If this option is not viable, hire a Chinese student.

Trade mission participants also attended the opening of the new China Ceramics Industry Headquarters (CCIH) in Foshan. Located just 10 minutes from the China Ceramics City, a five-story, integrated marketplace with more than 226 brands of domestic and imported ceramics and sanitary ware, the new CCIH has a land planning area of 667,000 square meters. The first stage of the project covering more than 267,000 square meters is set to open October 18.

At the conclusion of the event, Andy Peng of Bravura International commented that, “I think this was Mission Accomplished. With the softness of the U.S. economy there was a concern about pulling this effort off. This has been a wonderful communication opportunity for both sides.”

Peng added that after the trip it seems like a lot of distributors have started talks with Chinese manufacturers. The message from the manufacturers was to create a long- term business relationship.

The 3rd U.S. China Trade Mission is now being planned. For details, contact Andy Peng of Bravura International Corp., Castro Valley, CA, at (408) 898-4104 or apeng@bravurainternational.com.