End of Year Message to Members from President Mats Harborn Go back »

2018-12-30 | All chapters

End of Year Message to Members from President Mats Harborn

Dear Members of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China,

A very busy and turbulent 40 year anniversary of opening up and reform is coming to an end. Our analysis that there is a reform deficit in China that needs to be closed has proven to be a very accurate summary of the cause of much of the trade tension that we are seeing. At the same time the Chamber stated in its 18 Months Since Davos report that more reform and opening up has happened in the past 18 months than in any equivalent period since China entered the WTO. So, things are moving in the right direction, but more needs to be done.

We have stated publicly that we agree with the concerns of the US administration, but we do not think that a tariff war is the most efficient way to move forward. As shown in the May Business Confidence Survey 2018 regulatory issues are the main concern of a majority of Chamber member companies and such issues are dealt better with through constructive engagement than through confrontation. There is now a 90 days truce and it is very difficult to predict how this conflict will end. That the US administration is bundling a number of different issues together does not ease the complexity.

I am proud to say that our Chamber reports have been widely quoted and widely used this year and hopefully our bottom up, fact based and balanced approach will have helped put issues in a wider context.

For a number of member companies the market access openings are very significant, with approximately half a dozen MNCs seriously exploring new investments.  The same goes for better IPR protection and lowered import duties on a number of important goods.

For many other members all of these have, for different reasons been less meaningful. Copy cats moving inland where the IPR protection system is weaker is still posing a serious threat to business. We have been made aware of a number of IPR infringement cases that our members are facing as well.

The improved ranking of China in the World Bank ease of doing business index from 78 to 46 is remarkable. We can take some credit for that improvement. We indeed shared our experiences with World Bank in its consultation process.  This included our feedback with local governments through our chapters to suggest improvements in a wide array of aspects of the business environment. This is not least the result of the launch of local position papers.

My very distinct impression from 2018 is that the Chamber has been met with very high respect from all of our stakeholders, both Chinese and foreign and we know that our publications are read at the highest levels. This adds a sense of responsibility to our work. We must ensure that what we write and say is always accurate and based on our own first-hand information.

As a community we have during the year had a great many good events together around this vast country and it has been a great joy to participate in many of these.

China is an intensive place. It has its own pace. Some call it China Speed. Therefore we also need to ensure that we sometimes take time off to relax and reflect. Christmas is a good time for this. I therefore wish you all a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas and New Year holiday and hope that you get to spend quality time with family and friends.

I look forward to 2019, a year that almost certainly with be very eventful in a number of ways.


Warm regards,


Mats Harborn