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CIIE briefs foreign firms on policies Release date: 2021-11-22    Source:China Daily

Import expo highlights role of communications between investors and authorities

The China International Import Expo, which has been held annually for four years, provides an efficient platform for foreign enterprises to communicate with local authorities to better understand the country's policies regarding foreign investment so they can make better business decisions, industry experts and business executives said.

Foreign investment inflows to China are expected to grow despite the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the country's unwavering efforts to further open up its market and improve its business environment, they said.

This year's version of the global trade gala, held from Nov 5 to 10 in Shanghai, is the latest demonstration of the important role of the event in bridging communications between foreign investors and Chinese authorities.

"Many local government representatives came to the CIIE to introduce their policies on foreign investment and to better inform foreign investors about making decisions on investment," said Xu Jian, president and director of Omron China Co Ltd.

The company has taken part in the CIIE since 2018. This year, it brought again to the CIIE its core "sensing, control and thinking" technologies, as well as applications in the fields of healthcare and industrial automation.

Its table tennis-coaching robot, a platform to display the company's advanced technologies, has been updated to a sixth version for the CIIE this year. It can capture mood changes of humans to make quick responses via the artificial intelligence technology and has a self-correcting function.

Thanks to the CIIE, the company receives many inquiries for its products at the exhibition booth each year. It had 505 sales talks at its CIIE booth last year, with many leading to tentative sales agreements, Xu said.

The company's recent establishment of an agriculture business unit was inspired by its communications with local authorities at the CIIE, she said.

In May 2020, the company founded a new subsidiary for intelligent agriculture, to apply its technologies in the digitalization of agriculture, so that science and intelligence will be injected into farming to make it less dependent on experiences and human intuition.

The headquarters of the subsidiary is in Shanghai. Its branch, with a trial farm, was established in Wuxi, Jiangsu province. The decision was made after Omron China's debut of an exhibition of the intelligent agriculture concept and applications at the CIIE in 2019, which attracted intense attention from visitors.

Through its research on China's intelligent agriculture and communications with representatives of local authorities at the CIIE, the company found that Wuxi attaches great importance to the development of intelligent agriculture. It plans to double the size of the Wuxi farm, which is now at 56,000 square meters.

Tony Wei, managing director of Swarovski Greater China, said he is impressed by the role the CIIE plays in bolstering communications between foreign enterprises and local authorities.

"The CIIE is a distinctive platform that gathers local government officials from provinces and cities across the country at one place in one time. We even met with and talked to officials from the Tibet autonomous region at the CIIE," Wei said.

The company has not yet opened any store in the Tibet autonomous region, but negotiations are taking place to set up some. He said he appreciates the CIIE and its organizers in providing such a direct communication channel, saving at least five hours of flight per visit for him to Tibet.

At this year's CIIE, Swarovski displayed its latest retail concept, Wonderlab, and creative new products of its Collection II series.

Last year, when the company first attended the CIIE, Wei talked to about 20 officials from different provinces and cities at the company's booth. This year, visits by officials to its booth seemed less than last year, as COVID-19 led to restrictions on people traveling.

Officials usually come to the booth to interpret local policy measures to encourage foreign investment, as well as share information about development plans for shopping and business centers that they believe are suitable for the Austrian fashion brand. Some of the ongoing projects of the company came from its talks with officials at the CIIE.

"I was very impressed by the work efficiency of local governments to attract foreign investment," Wei said.

Last year, some officials paid an additional round of visits to Swarovski after the CIIE to invite the company to open stores in their districts.

The CIIE also helps foreign enterprises better understand China's national agenda, as the event zooms in on key national strategies with multiple forums and sessions, such as those on the development of the Hainan Free Trade Port and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, he said.

Through those forums and sessions, foreign investors can have direct communication with the government departments and think tanks that play core roles in the formation or execution of those strategies. Direct communication will help them better understand those strategies, give feedback to the authorities, and discuss challenges faced by enterprises, Wei said.

Zhou Mi, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said foreign enterprises are eager to utilize the CIIE to tap market potential while local governments in China, facing restrictions on cross-border people movement due to COVID-19, also put more weight on the CIIE to strengthen direct communication with foreign investors.

"As China pursues high-quality economic development, local governments face both opportunities and challenges in achieving industrial upgrades and coordinated regional development, which motivate them to strengthen communication with foreign investors and respond to their needs," Zhou said.

China's emphasis on innovation-driven development, predictable business environment and complete industrial chains will continue to make it attractive to foreign investors, although the pandemic will disrupt foreign investment activities, he said.

Business executives who spoke highly of China's determination to open up and efforts to improve its business environment said they will keep investing in the country.

Wei said China not only has made big progress in enhancing legislation and policy measures to improve its business environment, but also has been strictly implementing laws and policies to provide effective services and facilitation for enterprises to grow.

China's business environment has kept improving rapidly and improvement of the government's work efficiency has greatly reduced costs of foreign enterprises operating in the country, said Xu with Omron China.

"That makes us very confident to expand our business in China. Such a predictable and consistent business environment in China cheers foreign companies," Xu said.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, challenges of restrained global supply chains and rising raw material prices had a limited impact on Omron's business in China, thanks to effective control of the disease in the country, as well as policies rolled out to support the manufacturing sector and economic recovery. Such policies are very helpful to the company's suppliers, she said.

China is building a new dual-circulation development pattern, which takes the domestic market as the mainstay while letting foreign and domestic markets reinforce each other. The huge potential of China's domestic market will be further unleashed, creating opportunities for foreign companies in China to expand business and increase sales, she said.

By Liu Zhihua