City eager to support foreign businesses

Ding Yining
Shanghai authorities are doing everything they can to help foreign firms return to normal operations with a raft of supportive policies in place.
Ding Yining
City eager to support foreign businesses

Shanghai authorities have doubled down on efforts to stabilize economic activity for foreign businesses.

"The city's commerce commission is assessing the current economic situation and is considering releasing measures in the coming month to stimulate consumption," said Xue Feng, president of the Shanghai Foreign Investment Development Board.

Shopping centers and retailers have been hit hard due to the drop in foot traffic in February.

Field visits have been made by commerce authorities to the regional headquarters of major foreign businesses in the city and efforts have been focused on some of the common challenges such as shortage of preventative equipment, customs clearance problems and disruption of logistics.

During an online session held by the board on Thursday to promote investment and stabilize economic development, major commerce chambers from European countries shared their concerns.

Officials from Shanghai’s Human Resources and Social Security Bureau and district-level authorities such as the Shanghai Jiading Commission of Economy and Shanghai Pudong New Area Commission of Commerce put forward detailed guidelines on which enterprises are eligible for targeted subsidies.

Initial progress has been made in providing financial support and supportive measures to allow manufacturing to be restored as soon as possible.

For example, 133 enterprises in the Pudong New Area have received 579 million yuan (US$83.07 million) in loans from commercial lenders, and targeted support for high-tech industry and private incubators has been put in place.

A total of 147 million yuan in subsidies has been offered to 1,028 enterprises in Pudong that offer online vocational training courses.

In the Zizhu High Tech Park in Minhang District, seven companies have received a total of 10 million yuan in loans from commercial lenders.

Jiading Commission of Economy said 95 percent of companies had resumed working and the commission has also helped a manufacturer of preventative items to connect with raw material suppliers to restore normal business.

Bettina Schoen, chairwoman of the German Chamber of Commerce in China, said 90 percent of companies in a survey conducted in late February expect a medium to high impact from the epidemic with nearly half of them estimating a double-digit drop for business revenue in the first half.

"Businesses are trying hard to balance between quarantine measures and going back to business," she said.

The commission also received inquiries, especially from small businesses, regarding clear guidelines from district-level authorities and industry park management bodies, and the demand to stay up to date with changing regulations.

James Dunn, head of the British Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, noted that amid a decrease in demand and services, businesses in education, construction, food and beverage would take longer to get back to normal levels. 

A separate survey by the China-Britain Business Council showed that nearly 80 percent of companies said export business prospects for full year is neutral or positive while 23 percent estimate business to fall into negative territory.

Valtero Canepa, vice chairman of the China-Italy Chamber of Commerce said more than half of Italian companies estimate at least a 20-percent decrease in revenue. 

The commerce chamber's survey shows 95 percent of companies had restored operations by the end of February.

"We have also received requests from members to a centralized platform for continuous updates about both municipal and district level policies," he added.

There will be follow-up online seminars in the coming weeks for businesses and potential investors in Japan and America to offer a more targeted and detailed interpretation of supportive measures, as the city's commerce commission is also encouraging investment promotion bodies to diversify investment promotion activities.

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