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Executives from Europe, China aim to open more doors to business

International Herald Tribune / The Associated Press

 

FRANKFURT , Germany , November 5, 2007 : European companies can help China develop brands that are both global and sustainable, and in return create ties that help their own businesses compete in that nation's fast-growing economy, organizers of an China-Europe conference say.

More than 300 business leaders will meet in Frankfurt this week for the third such gathering as chief executives from scores of companies across Europe and elsewhere aim to open the door to more commerce in — and with — China .

The conference "comes at a critical international moment for Chinese business leaders," said Fu Chengyu, CEO of CNOOC Ltd., which oversees China 's offshore oil and gas production. "Interaction with European CEOs could help outline elements of a globalization strategy for Chinese firms." That's one part of what the conference is hoping for, said Frank-Jürgen Richter, president of Horasis, a Geneva , Switzerland-based group that is organizing the gathering.

"It will offer multiple means to gain insight from and access to business leaders and key government officials," he told The Associated Press, with an eye toward helping Chinese companies to build global and sustainable brands.

The meeting also comes at a telling moment for China and the 27-nation European Union , which has the Asian nation as its second-biggest trading partner after the United States but is grappling with a widening trade gap. EU statistics show its trade deficit with China grew to €86.1 billion (US$122 billion) for January to July this year from €68.9 billion a year earlier.

EU leaders have called on China to revalue its currency, saying its low level against the U.S. dollar and the euro makes it cheap for the rest of the world to buy from China , but expensive for China to import from others.

China has increased its worldwide clout and is now the world's second-largest exporter, behind only Germany , Europe 's biggest economy, and ahead of the United States at No. 3.

While previous meetings were held in Switzerland , the conference was moved to Frankfurt in a bid to highlight the fact that German industry views China as a key market, Richter said. That comes as no surprise, given the move by key German automakers like Porsche AG, Daimler AG and BMW AG to bring more cars for sale given the rise of the middle and upper class in China .

"Our participation underlines Deutsche Börse's wish to create synergies with Chinese organizations and to play a complementary role in the international development of Chinese companies," said Reto Francioni, CEO of the German stock exchange that is one of the organizers.

Other attendees include European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet;Commerzbank AG CEO Klaus-Peter Mueller; Lafarge SA Chairman Bertrand Collomb and China Merchants Bank president and CEO Ma Weihua, among others.

Organizers — which also include the German state of Hesse — said the conference is geared toward a more informal environment, with meetings between company leaders, government officials and regulators, aimed at finding a common ground to expanding operations both in China and outside of the country.

It's also a forum for those who are already doing business in China to offer guidance and advice, said Robert P. Lee, chief executive of Dublin , California-based Achievo Corp., an offshore software and information technology outsourcing provider.

" China is increasingly considered to be a top-ranked alternative to India for offshore outsourcing due to its vast IT resources and modern infrastructure," said Lee, whose company's customers include Siemens AG, Toshiba Corp. and the China Academy of Sciences.

Lee said his company has operations in the country and he hopes to dispel fears about the lack of security for intellectual property in the country — the subject of a WTO dispute between the U.S. and China .

The U.S. complained to the World Trade Organization in April, accusing Beijing of failing to do enough to stop rampant copying of music, movies and other goods. That added to strain between the nations over China 's trade surplus and recalls and warnings of tainted Chinese goods.


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