France’s Chinese Investors Club was convened for the 10th consecutive year on June 5, 2013, in the prestigious setting of the Paris-Ile de France Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées.
This year’s Club marked a break in the traditional format, and was an occasion to celebrate the continuing partnerships between the Invest in France Agency (IFA), the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, the Association of Chinese Companies in France (AECF) and the Paris-Ile de France Chamber of Commerce and Industry to serve the interests of Chinese investors in France.
The afternoon began by a meeting between representatives of various Chinese companies, who had the chance to ask questions directly to civil servants from various authorities, including the Social Security Directorate, the Employment and Vocational Training Directorate (DGEFP), Economic Immigration Office (BIP) and the Labor Directorate (DGT). Discussions centered on issues relating to immigration, social security and recruitment.
Thereafter, four workshops were set up for companies with more specific questions to have a private audience with experts from the IFA and its partner for this event, Deloitte. These meetings were highly appreciated by Chinese entrepreneurs who obtained precise and specific answers to their questions on immigration, employment law, human resources, and taxation in France.
It was then time for the main event, the annual conference, involving 200 participants who heard speeches from French and Chinese officials reviewing the last decade of Chinese investments in France.
10 years of Chinese investment projects in France
The first speaker, Mr. Olivier Mellériot, an elected member of the Paris-Ile de France Chamber of Commerce and Industry, focused on President Hollande’s recent remarks for “yet more efforts to be made to help and encourage Chinese companies to set up business in France”. He also spoke of the history and origins of the Chinese Investors Club, and emphasized the many improvements that have been made to the business environment thanks to constant communication between members companies and the French authorities.
Mr. Nhay Phan, President of the AECF also applauded the endurance of the Club, reminding the audience of its “role as a discussion platform between Chinese investors and stakeholders in the French business world”. In his view, this year’s Club was being held against a favorable backdrop of not only excellent bilateral relations between the two countries, but also the progress being made by Chinese investments in terms of both value and the diversity of business sectors and French regions chosen as investment sites.
Strong presence of Chinese companies in France
The very strong growth of Chinese companies in France during the last decade deserves to be underlined; today, China is the eight largest source country of foreign investment in France, with around 100 Chinese companies employing 11,000 people in our country. This is how Mr. Serge Boscher, Managing Director of the IFA, decided to start his speech. The figures are all the more spectacular given the near non-existence of Chinese companies in France just 10 years ago. The creation of a €100 million Franco-Chinese investment fund in 2012 illustrates the extent to which France is committed to building upon these buoyant investment trends. Moreover, the IFA opened a third office in China last year, in Beijing, in addition to its existing offices in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Two Chinese companies, Huatian Paris and Illochroma Haoneng, then shared their successful experiences of investing in France with the audience, but also the difficulties they encountered along the way. Ms. Yuyuan Wang, Managing Director of Huatian Paris, spoke of their positive experience in acquiring the Chinagora hotel complex in Alfortville, just outside Paris. This four-star hotel opened in October 2012, marking the first step in Huatian’s international development, and enabling 40 jobs to be saved and 30 new jobs to be created.
Ms. Anna Lee, CEO of Illochroma Haoneng, was rather more reserved. While she readily recognized France’s key strengths in technological and management fields, she shared a number of difficulties her company had faced. In Mr. Boscher’s view, her “sharp and authentic” comments were powerful arguments to ensure this annual Investors Club continues to meet, and for the IFA and its partners to redouble their efforts on a day-to-day basis.
Mr. Boscher and Mr. Jianyi Zhu, Economic Counselor at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, concluded the conference by agreeing that Chinese investors already doing business in France are the best ambassadors to advance Franco-Chinese collaboration and to give rise to reforms to promote still further the economic development of Chinese companies in France.
Following the annual conference, participants were able to continue their discussions at a champagne cocktail event, to underscore once again the friendship and good will that exists to deepen Franco-Chinese cooperation.