Economic opportunity beckoning

Updated: 2013-11-22 00:00

By Li Jiabao (China Daily)

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Business, political leaders aim to bridge gaps on trade, investment

Business leaders have urged China and the EU to work more closely together as political leaders from both sides develop a multiyear plan to improve relations.

"Against the backdrop of globalization, business leaders from both sides are meeting to look at the long-term picture," said Wan Jifei, chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, at the ninth China-EU Business Summit in Beijing on Thursday. "New challenges should be resolved in an open, pragmatic and flexible way to transform the way we work together."

Jiang Yafei, vice-president of Huawei Technologies, said, "China and the EU are important trading partners, but the full potential of two-way investment has yet to be realized."

"The two have a lot to gain in working together on technology. We hope China and the EU can improve the way they work together in areas such as mobile Internet, cloud computing and big data," he said.

Markus Borchert, president of Nokia Solutions and Networks in China, said China is moving away from its image as a country of its low costs to a country known for its innovation.

"We regard ourselves as a foreign-invested local company rather than a foreign company ... We have invested in China for China and for the world," Borchert said.

David Frey, a management-consulting partner with KPMG, said China's economic reforms mean opportunities.

"Foreign investment is a crucial driver for improving societal welfare, while China's reforms can eventually trigger a new wave of global investment.

"European companies' investment and technology play a key role in this critical era of China's economic transformation," Frey said.

China plans to increase its returns on investment in society by focusing economic development on seven strategic industries: biotechnology, clean-energy vehicles, energy conservation and environmental protection, high-end equipment manufacturing, new energy, new materials and next-generation IT.

European companies are well-equipped to help China in these areas, given their experience in green technology and environmental sustainability, Frey said.

In the first 10 months of this year, the EU's direct investment in China's nonfinancial sectors was $6.4 billion, an increase of 22.26 percent year-on-year, the Ministry of Commerce said.

Between January and October, China's nonfinancial direct investment in the EU stood at $3.04 billion, 92.4 percent higher than the corresponding period last year.

The EU is also an important source of China's technology imports. In the first nine months of this year, China imported $10.78 billion in technology from the EU.

Bi Hua, CEO and executive director of Greatview Aseptic Packaging Co, said: "We have responded to calls from European customers to help them by moving to build a factory in Germany last year.

"Cooperation and competition between China and Europe is still in its infancy and will continue to intensify and thrive over the coming years."

Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said on Tuesday that economic ties between China and the EU represent a good trend despite some difficulties in recent years.

The two sides have had initial talks on setting up a mechanism to avoid, reduce or eliminate such problems, he said.

The EU is China's largest trading partner, and China is the bloc's second-largest trading partner.

Bilateral trade in the first 10 months of this year was worth $456.1 billion, 0.5 percent higher than in the corresponding period last year, reversing a slide in 2012, according to the Ministry of Commerce.