LAST WEEK SAW business leaders, public figures, and investors gather at startup hub Maria 01 for the first-ever Europe-China Economic and Trade Forum, an event aimed at strengthening economic and trade links between the two countries and between China and the EU.
The event was organized by China-Europe Association for Technical and Economic Cooperation (CEATEC), Silk Passage Business Consultancy co. LTD and EverGrow Oy with the intention of furthering mutual understandings of European and Chinese business culture and encouraging Finnish companies to set up shop in China.
Also in attendance were representative Ms. Chen Hui the Director of China-Europe Association for Technical and Economic Cooperation (CEATEC) Shanghai office, who expressed hopes that Finland could be an ideal gateway for Chinese companies looking to break into the European market.
Companies represented at the packed event included Nordea Bank, Elisa, Kesko, and Planmeca, as well as over 100 Finnish SMEs.
As China moves from being a primarily manufacturing economy to a high-tech, consumer-based one, officials have expressed a desire to import European expertise and products into the country, as part of the government’s wider strategy of “opening up” the economy to the international market.
As such, experts were on hand to discuss issues ranging from Intellectual Property law, a prevalent concern among Western businesspeople, and accessing capital and investment within China.
Understanding the vastly different business cultures in China and Europe was also at the top of the agenda. As Dragan Čigola, Chief International Affairs at CEATAC pointed out; “business culture is the biggest challenge when it comes to strengthening trade ties. The EU and China are the two biggest markets on Earth, yet they have very little understanding of how one another conducts business”.
“Things used to be designed in Europe and produced in China, but that dynamic is reversing. We want European companies to take advantage of the huge capital and investment opportunities in China, but we need to reduce cultural barriers first”.
For Finnish and European entrepreneurs wary of doing business in China, experts were on hand to address concerns. Ms. Chen Hui, the Director of CEATEC’s Shanghai Office, discussed how China was simplifying areas such as tax, IP laws, customs clearances, and foreign ownership in order to turn China from the “biggest importer to the biggest exporter”.
“It’s not just about expectations. It’s about the concrete steps already being taken to bring down barriers and to promote trade between Europe and China. Our goal is to publicize this and let people know that China is open for business. It’s not just about big companies.
“We want small and medium-sized businesses to benefit from this. In Finland, for instance, you excel in medical technology and niche, high-tech production parts. This is the kind of stuff we’d like to attract to China with this forum”.
It was clear that there is a high level of interest in China about what Finland produces and how China can replicate its success. The local government of Dongguan, in Guangdong Province, specifically requested that the Chinese delegation persuade Finnish producers to set up shop in their city.
Finland’s education system, happiness rankings, forestry technology, and lifestyle products were all highlighted as areas of keen interest to Chinese importers. As Joshua Wu, General Manager of Silk Passage Business Consultancy co. Ltd explained; “There is a human-focused, healthy lifestyle and culture here in Finland that has a huge appeal among Chinese consumers. The education system and the results it produces is something that will become immensely popular in China over the next few years”.
As Jun Yao, CEO of EverGrow OY pointed out: ‘’ Our company helps Finnish companies to grow in China. The best way to grow in China is to have the right local partner, whom you can trust. We are aiming to pre-select those partners and bring them closer to Finnish companies.’’
Linda Liukas, author and illustrator of Hello Ruby and Sanna Lukander, the CEO of Fun Academy, were also in attendance to share their business story in China.
In addition to the talks, there were performances from a number of high-profile Chinese and Finnish artists. A number of strategic partnerships between Chinese and Finnish businesses were also signed on the day.
For those who were unable to attend the forum, there will be another one taking place in Shanghai on 17-18 May 2019, which promises to be bigger than the last. If you are interested in taking your business to China, You can find more information at evergrow.fi.
Adam Oliver Smith - HT (@HelsinkiTimes)
Image Credit: Evergrow Oy