The ninth “Chinese Investors Club in France and in Europe” was held at the Bourse de Commerce de Paris (Paris Commodities Exchange), organized jointly by the IFA (The Invest in France Agency), the CCIP (Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry), and the AECF (Association of Chinese Companies in France), with the kind assistance of the Chinese Embassy in France.
As David Appia, Chairman and CEO of the Invest in France Agency reminded the audience at the beginning of the conference, this was an opportunity to discuss new reforms and laws more conducive to Chinese investors. These investors, like Mr. Zhen Chen from the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), appreciate the many improvements that have taken place in France in the last few years, in particular the issuing of visas better suited to their needs, although they are still concerned about the time it takes to receive residence permits, which often hampers the mobility of highly skilled employees.
The French government is keenly aware that administrative red tape can deter some investors. This is why, in order to streamline such formalities, the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII) has been appointed as the sole contact in the French Hauts de Seine, Rhône and Paris départements. This one-stop service approach, which has reduced the maximum time between filing for a permit and receiving it to only four to six weeks, will soon be rolled out to other départements.
The European Union Blue Card will also be available soon in these one-stop service centers. This residence permit will allow intra-group transfers between European Union countries: after having spent at least 18 months working in an EU Member State, permit holders will then be able to work in any other Member State.
The second part of the conference was devoted to presenting investors an important but rarely mentioned subject: intercultural management issues. This is a subject that can often be overlooked, but it is of crucial importance to the success of Chinese investors setting up a business in France.
There is a huge cultural gap between France and China that is not always easy to bridge. To this end, the CCIP has introduced a series of intercultural management training sessions to give Chinese expatriates the chance to adapt more easily to the French system, and also to help French employees better understand their new Chinese contacts. These training sessions deal with preconceptions and prejudices that both groups of employees may have about their counterparts. As such, the Chinese gain an awareness that French employees have a different way of communicating and thinking that makes them very creative and inventive and that they also have exceptional technical expertise. The French, on the other hand, learn that money is viewed somewhat differently in China; while far from being a problem, money is something Chinese people are very proud of, as it represents social success and confers recognition and respect upon those in possession of it.
The example of Echosens, a French company wholly bought out by its Chinese distributor, is a perfect illustration of the benefits of these types of training sessions. Richard Guillaume, Echosens’ Managing Director, also advocates good internal and external communication, with regular use of video conferences and physical on-site meetings between Chinese and French employees to reassure all parties.
Another important subject discussed in the second part of the conference was recruitment in France. French employees do not necessarily have the same expectations as the Chinese. Pay, job security, corporate health and recognition of the employer’s brand are key elements that Chinese investors must take into account when recruiting. Guillaume Le Masne from HR consultants Mercuri Urval also encouraged Chinese investors to explore two new recruitment possibilities. Firstly, the employment rate of older workers in France is the lowest in Europe, and as such they represent an experienced and rapidly operational source of labor. Furthermore, homeworking remains under-developed in France, even though many people are interested in the concept, which would reduce costs for employers.
Lastly, another innovation in the Club this year was that after the plenary session was finished participants were able to meet taxation, immigration, employment law and human resources specialists. “Thanks to these workshops, I was able to talk face to face with the people I work for on a daily basis,” said Sabrina Losio, a legal expert at the IFA. “Investors are also reassured after these meetings where they can obtain responses to their specific questions, allowing them to make quicker headway with their projects.”