WESTERLY — Westerly native Amy P. Celico has some suggestions for how best to mend the fractured relationship between the world's two largest economies.
"Build bridges," said Celico, an expert on U.S.-China trade relations, during a visit to her parent's Beach Street home. She had been the luncheon keynote speech at Bryant University's 34th annual World Trade Day on May 22. "Use constructive engagement."
Celico, 50, is a principal of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm founded by her colleague and mentor, former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. She leads the firm’s China team in Washington, D.C., and makes frequent trips to Beijing, where she helps clients build and expand their businesses in China.
"We were all so pleased Amy was available and willing because there has been so much uncertainty around U.S.-China trade with the Section 301 tariffs," said Elizabeth Robson, co-chair of the world trade day committee and president of jf moran, a Smithfield-based international shipping firm. "Amy’s expertise and perspective helped to round out the information that has been circulating regarding U.S.-China trade relations ... her perspective was particularly valuable because of the depth of her understanding of the complexities of the relationship ... and the potential consequences ... for those involved in trade."
Celico was invited to speak at the World Trade Day about "the most pressing issues impacting local companies," Robson said.
"Her keynote address led into a smaller panel discussion directly after the discussion," Robson added, "and there was standing room only at the session."
Celico develops and implements tailored strategies for her clients in China, including Johns Hopkins, Cargill and Merck. She said that tensions between the United States and China these days "are not so much simmering, but boiling over."
"We should work with our allies to bring trade conflict to an end," she said. "Forty years ago we normalized our relationship with China and by and large they were continuing to improve ... right now we are seeing a significant shift."
"Tariffs are not the answer," she added. "I'm beginning to see tensions outweigh the positives and competition replace cooperation. I am worried."
"We all want a strong China," she said, "but we want a China who adheres to the rules."
While she applauds the Trump administration's tough stance toward China, especially since China continues to be less than truthful about ownership of companies like the technology giant, Huawei, Celico said that continuing to have conflict is dangerous and has "massive impacts on global economy."
"Neither side is willing to shift, which makes us vulnerable," she sid.
Before joining Albright's firm, Celico, the only daughter of Donna and Frank Celico of Westerly, was senior director for China affairs at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, where she was responsible for developing negotiating positions on China’s non-financial services sectors and intellectual property policies.
She was also the deputy director of the Office of the Chinese Economic Area at the Department of Commerce, where she monitored China’s compliance with its World Trade Organization commitments and worked on expanding market access for U.S. companies in China. At the State Department, she was an intelligence analyst in the Bureau of Research and Intelligence, and vice consul for economic affairs at the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai. Before joining the government, she was director of development for the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies.
Celico, who is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, grew up in Westerly, attended Westerly Public Schools and graduated from the Williams School in New London. She earned a bachelor's degree with honors in Asian Studies from Mount Holyoke College and completed her master's degree in International Economics and Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. She is also a graduate of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and worked on China policy for both the Clinton and Bush administrations.
"I love my job," said Celico. "I love building bridges between the U.S. and China and reinforcing the value of positive relationships."
She described Albright as a genius and an inspiration, one who "has been so very dedicated to having a positive impact in the world."
With her dog, Lucy, a Havanese, sitting nearby, Celico, who comes from a large extended Westerly family, said she knew she wanted to learn about China from the time she was a teenager. It was a class she took with the late Rick Dauer, while she was a student at Williams, that sparked her interest.
When the class was over, she remembers thinking, "'I have to go to college to study Chinese.'"
Celico said she was inspired by many different teachers during her years in the Westerly schools and then at Williams.
"Thelma Gaccione was a massive influence," she said, recalling her elementary teacher at the Tower Street School. "And at the high school, there was Mr. Terranova and the Lintons ... I had both Mr. and Mrs. Linton and they were hugely influential."
Teachers have such impact on children's lives, Celico said, and good teachers know how to draw young learners out. As do parents.
"My parents were very involved," said Celico. "When I got home from school, my mother wanted to hear everything about my day. She believed what I was doing mattered."
Celico serves on the board of trustees at the Williams School, and Mark Fader, the head of school, said he was grateful for the time, support and expertise Celico gives to her alma mater.
"She's amazing and she's engaged," said Fader. "She has given assemblies for the students and has helped us with the shaping of the future of education in independent schools."
One of Celico's biggest fans, her 24-year-old niece, Margaret Celico, said that while she's certainly impressed by her aunt's professional expertise, there are a few other attributes also worth mentioning.
"She's always generous and no matter what, she always has a bright smile," said Margaret, a student at the University of Rhode Island. "I've always looked up to my Auntie Amy."