The 2012/05/18 at 05:30
Davide Cucino has been presiding over the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China since April 2011, after acting as its Vice-President. He retraces the current context in which European companies are evolving and the support offered by his organisation.
Commerce International: What are the missions of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China?
Davide Cucino: “We are an independent organisation. Most busines-ses with which we are in contact are established in China or export their goods and services there. Defending their interests and supporting them on the spot make up the central objective around which all our projects are structured. The Chamber was set up eleven years ago, a few months before China joined the WTO (World Trade Organisation), with the aim of monit-oring this integration. Our role today is also to make sure that commitments in this domain are respected and to monitor the conformity of local operation with WTO principles.”
What concrete forms of support do you offer businesses?
D.C.: “A great deal of our work aims to organise working groups and forums for our members, in order to supply practical information. These are divided into branches of activity and transversal themes. Certain forums are for example devoted to automobiles, financial services or energy. Others take a horizontal approach and broach issues such as relationships with suppliers or access to public markets. The organisation respects a specific agenda adapted to difficulties related to the conjuncture or to sectors that may arise. By this process, we hope that the political class as a whole becomes aware of the adaptations required by the business environment so that European businesses can evolve in the best conditions on the Chinese market.”
Is China still considered a land of opportunities?
D.C.: “The businesses committed here are conscious of the immense potential existing in many sectors. Many of them invest primarily to sell on the local market and do not necessarily use the country as an intermediary before reintroducing products in Europe. There are of course concerns on the part of European businesses regarding access to certain markets in China. Globally, companies from the Old Continent are growing and taking advantage of local growth, but we regret that they are not dealt with as favourably as Chinese businesses. They often find themselves limited in terms of capital stakes, access to public markets or access to strategic sectors.”
Reindustrialisation is increasingly raised as a means to stimulate the European economy. Do you see this desire as a threat to economic exchanges with China?
D.C.: “European companies that turn to Asia do so essentially to exploit local potential. Let’s be clear: this is where, in our opinion, the most interesting opportunities are found. Even if new industrial markets emerge in Europe, the interest will not be adequate for companies that are focusing on China to do an about-turn. An interesting solution for re-injecting vitality into the European economy would perhaps be to welcome more Chinese companies that have high financial capacities. This does not mean handing over companies to Asian players but rather envisaging joint ventures, collaborations, minority stakes, in the same way as European companies setting up in China have already done.”
What are your main objectives for the coming years?
D.C.: “Protectionism is the greatest obstacle to the expansion of European interests locally. We would like the situation to improve as quickly as possible. We could be much more competitive in the energy industry or financial services, that are amongst the most closed markets at the moment. This issue continues to be the main preoccupation for many company heads and we hope to find better compromises with China in the coming years.”