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Building Envoys to Seek Bigger Share of Overseas Market
The central government is working on a plan to dispatch construction officials to Chinese embassies in foreign countries to help Chinese builders grab more shares in the global market.

"The officials are expected to act as bridges between Chinese construction enterprises and foreign markets," said Jin Dejun, chief engineer with the Ministry of Construction.

The countries and regions where China has relatively more projects or a huge potential market are the priority for the government to send such diplomats to, Jin said yesterday at the 2002 China International Forum of Construction Industries in Beijing.

"We are working with the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation on the plan," Jin said.

But he didn't give further details.

The arrangement is among other measures to enhance Chinese construction enterprises' competitiveness in the global context now that China became a World Trade Organization (WTO) member.

"For our construction enterprises, WTO membership has created more opportunities as more building markets across the world are going to be open to China," said the chief engineer.

The Chinese government is determined to foster leading domestic companies who vie with foreign rivals in all industries, he said.

Jin also pointed out that the global presence of Chinese building companies is far from satisfactory although China has extended its project contracts and labor export to 180 countries and regions across the world.

Statistics indicated that the total volume of international projects in 2001 amounted to US$1 trillion, but Chinese companies only received 1.35 percent of the total.

The major parts of China's international projects are still located in Asia.

"The countries in other continents are our next targets," said Jin.

"The cooperation between the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) will be complementary and conducive to boost the country's construction industries," said Lo Yiuching, director of the HKSAR Highways Department at the same event.

He called for intensified efforts to train construction people to better cope with the thirst for talents in the sector.

At the two-day forum which is part of the ongoing Fifth China Beijing International High-Tech Expo, Jin also said the anticipated rapid development of China's real estate industry will create enormous opportunities for foreign businesses as well.

"The country expects to maintain an annual growth rate of 15 percent in its housing construction in the next few years, which will require a large amount of money," Jin said.

China will build at least 1.5 billion square meters of housing in urban areas and 3.5 billion square meters in rural areas by 2005, officials said.

The Chinese government has already formulated a series of preferential policies for overseas real estate developers, including exemptions from investment regulatory taxes, easy access to the raising of funds, and the freedom to remit after-tax profits abroad, according to Jin.

With the implementation of the housing reform policy, construction of ordinary residential housing has become a new focus of investment in the real estate sector, Jin said.

Sources with the ministry said that more than 5,000 overseas real estate enterprises, or 20 percent of the country's total, have already participated in China's real estate development.

(China Daily May 27, 2002)

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