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MNCs urged to better know investment destinations
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Chinese and foreign multinational corporations (MNCs) alike should be urged to learn more about their intended investment destinations.

A group of MNC CEOs, mayors around the world and senior government officials reached this consensus at the International CEO Roundtable of Chinese and Foreign Multinational Corporations, being held from November 16 to 18 in Beijing.

Zhang Xiaoyu, secretary-general of the Organizing Committee of the International CEO Roundtable of Chinese and Foreign Multinational Corporations, delivers a speech at the conference.

During the high-level event organized by the China International Institute of Multinational Corporations - a high-profile think tank for China's foreign trade and investment -CEOs voiced their opinions on how to fully integrate their companies in the international arena, make more contributions to corporate social responsibility (CSR), and establish sound credit and reputation.

Strategic foresight

Cheng Siwei, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and also the chairman of the organizing committee of the roundtable, told the CEOs that China's economic take-off and peaceful development require a harmonious world.

"When we (Chinese enterprises) negotiate with foreign MNCs, we need foreign MNCs to know China better, seeking common grounds while reserving difference," he said.

The key to this is deepening understanding and friendship, while removing misapprehension and prejudice, he noted.

"China will never pose any threat to the world. On the contrary, its peaceful development is in fact making contributions to the world's economy," Cheng pointed out.

He also said that China is resolutely deepening its reform and opening-up process.

The nation is taking firm steps to optimize its investment climate. For example, China has revised and formulated a series of laws to fulfill its commitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

"In terms of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection, China took 10 years to complete a process that took foreign companies almost 10 decades," he emphasized.

Foreign MNCs are encouraged to study more about China's status quo and its culture. "If you (MNCs) don't know these well, you will never be able to own strategic foresight, and thus will never achieve fast development in the country," Cheng said.

Deepening opening-up

In order to make MNCs learn more about China's resolute efforts to deepen the opening-up process, the nation is dedicated to raising the quality of its utilized foreign investment and helping foreign investors play a more important role in the country's economy, said Zhang Mao, vice-minister of the National Reform and Development Commission.

He urged more foreign companies to become involved in the development of Central and West China.

"Hi-tech, machinery equipment, new materials and service sectors welcome their presence," said Zhang.

"China also hopes to attract MNCs to develop the recycling economy, clean energy and environment-friendly industries."

The country is committed to improving its investment environment in a bid to seek win-win results with foreign MNCs based on mutual respect, he emphasized.

Echoing Zhang, Chong Quan, assistant to the minister of the Ministry of Commerce, said that 480 out of the world's top 500 MNCs now share the fruits of China's phenomenal economic development, but they should strengthen efforts to protect the nation's natural resources, and dedicate themselves to environmental protection and respecting labor rights.

In addition, Chong said the "going-global" strategy of Chinese enterprises is paying off, as China's direct investment in foreign destinations jumped to $17.63 billion in 2006 from $2.7 billion in 2002.

In response to the senior government officials' remarks, Lord Brittan, chairman of world banking giant UBS Investment Bank, cited a number of examples to underline China's highly successful economic opening-up as well as his company's presence in the emerging economy.

Participants at the roundtable unanimously agreed that UBS is a prime example to illustrate the government officials' call to learn more about China. " UBS is a just a case in point. It is an enterprise that has learnt China well and is thus thriving in the country," an official said.

CSR efforts

CSR is a hot topic at the roundtable.

Wang Jianzhou, president of China Mobile Group, one of the world top 500 enterprises based in China, said MNCs' commitment to CSR is vital to their reputation and strength.

He said China Mobile is making a concerted endeavor to recycle cell phone batteries in China. "Last year, we only collected 60,000 pieces. Thanks to our efforts, we have collected 20 million pieces so far this year. China has 500 million mobile phone users, so our CSR cause is immense."

His viewpoint was seconded by the officials of many well-known domestic and foreign companies.

Credit system

In collaboration with the US' DNB Group, a professional credit evaluation company, the China International Institute of Multinational Corporations honored 100 MNCs with "International Credit Enterprises" awards yesterday.

Li Zhimin, vice-president of China's steel heavyweight Sinosteel, delivered a speech on behalf of all the award-winning companies, saying: "Credit is the foundation of MNCs' competence."

He said establishing credit is a time-honored tradition in China and reports from the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China also called for building an optimized social credit system.

His viewpoint is based on the fact that Sinosteel was one of the earliest Chinese companies to "go overseas" and has set up advanced globalized management, operation and information sharing systems around the world.

"All these cross-boundary and cross-cultural economic activities are supported by a solid credit system, which is crucial for an MNC like Sinosteel," he said.

Participants at the CEO Roundtable concurred with the vice-president that establishing a scientific and transparent credit assessment standard and database for Chinese MNCs is key to the development of global business.

Other activities

Initiated by the China International Institute of Multinational Corporations, the International Cooperation Alliance for Mayors, Bank Governors, and CEOs was established during the meeting yesterday.

The institute also unveiled its research and assessment results including information on the most competitive foreign MNCs in China, the most competitive Chinese enterprises, and the best investment destination cities and development zones in China as well as in foreign countries.

(China Daily November 19, 2007)

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