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European firms seek more market access

09-03-2010 16:38 BJT

Industry body calls for improved regulatory environment in China

BEIJING - China has made several good initiatives recently but needs to improve market access and regulations to attract more global investment, European industry association officials said on Thursday.

"We have the feeling that China is more inclined to listen to what we say, but this does not mean that everything is perfect," Jacques de Boisseson, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, told China Daily.

De Boisseson, the newly elected president of the chamber, made the remarks while releasing the 10th edition of the annual European Business in China Position Paper 2010-11 on Thursday.

"European businesses must receive fair treatment and increased market access from the Chinese government," the paper said.

According to the paper, regulatory environment and market access are the top two concerns for European businesses in China.

The report also urged the EU officials and member states to forge and implement a common China policy. This will help boost China-EU relations and positively impact European businesses in the nation, it said.

EU is China's largest trade partner worldwide, and its member states have been actively investing in China during the past three decades. In 2009, Germany was the eighth-largest investor in China, with investments of over $1.23 billion, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

But during the past few months, European businesses have been calling for a better investment environment in China. Officials from Siemens and BASF have been repeatedly pressing for this at meetings with government officials.

Premier Wen Jiabao, had during his recent meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, reiterated that China will provide the same facilities for both foreign and domestic companies.

Commerce Minister Chen Deming wrote in a recent commentary that China is and will be more open to the world.

"We are encouraged by the responses, and we are happy that foreign businesses are being welcomed in China, and treated on par with Chinese enterprises," said de Boisseson. But we are also waiting for acts to match the rhetoric, he said.

Sven Wehser, chair of the chamber's Standards & Conformity Assessment Working Group, also feels that there has been progress.

"There are lots of changes and advances in China's investment laws, such as compulsory certification and intellectual property rights (IPR). More important is the progress made by China last year, as it is much more than earlier years," he said.

Wehser is one of the drafters of the position paper and was also part of an international group that had recently criticized the nation's investment environment.

Room for improvement

The position paper said China remains one of the most regulated markets worldwide, and urged the government to improve predictability and consistency in the implementation of rules and regulations and increase policy consultation with industry.

It also suggested that China should improve compulsory certification and business license requirements, IPR and government procurement agreement (GPA) norms.

China submitted a revised proposal on GPA recently. But de Boisseson said the new proposal falls short of expectations and claimed the market is still not open enough for foreign businesses. But the GPA revision itself is big progress, he said.

Over 78 percent of the respondents said they are optimistic about growth in China over the next two years, said a recent survey from the chamber. However, only 34 percent of the respondents were confident on profitability.

"If the environment deteriorates, they will probably change their business plan and consider moving out of China," said de Boisseson.

Wang Zhile, director of the Research Center on Transnational Corporations under the Ministry of Commerce, said the government has always been responsive to the needs of foreign businesses.

Zhou Siyu contributed to the story.

Editor:Xiong Qu |Source: China Daily

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