ROMÂNIA-CHINA / DORU COSTEA: We plan to open a facility for the Romanian private sector which would operate "on location", in China

Translated by COSMIN GHIDOVEANU
Ziarul BURSA #Companii / 9 iulie 2012

We plan to open a facility for the Romanian private sector which would operate "on location", in China

Interview with his Excellency, Mr. Doru Costea, the Romanian ambassador to China

Reporter: What is your view on the development of the Romanian-Chinese economic relations, in this period of world economic crisis?

Doru Costea: The context in which the Romanian-Chinese relations are taking place, predominantly in the economic area, is determined by several factors: the accumulation of political capital, over more than 60 years of diplomatic relations, and which led to the consolidation of mutual recognition and confidence; the changes in the status of the two countries on an international level - Romania is an EU member, and China has become the world's largest economy; the increase of the complexity of the world economy, as a result of globalization etc. After the crisis it went through at the end of the 90s, Asia has constantly proven itself to be a growth area, and China has been the driving force behind that growth.

On a bilateral level, we are happy that 2011 was a year where our commercial exchanges reached a record level: USD 4.2 billion. What matters is that Romania's exports have also reached a record level: USD 659 million, up over 32% compared to 2010. In the first three months of 2012, Romanian exports to China have seen a slight drop, of 1.28%, compared to the similar period of 2011, but imports also fell, by over 18%, which led to a reduction of the chronic deficit in the bilateral relations.

There are some noteworthy aspects here: first of all, there are big differences between our statistics and those of the Chinese customs authorities, especially due to the different manners in which they record commercial exchanges: Chinese partners take into account the certificate of origin, and the prices are Cost, Insurance and Freight, which also include the cost of shipping, whereas we take into account the FOB prices; therefore, Chinese statistics show that Romanian exports to China have amounted to USD 948 million. We are also examining other possible causes of these discrepancies. Secondly, regardless of the manner of calculation, a considerable trade deficit persists, and it is decreasing at a far too slow a pace compared to the potential of the bilateral trade. Thirdly, it is imperative to start heavily promoting our exports to the Chinese market, especially since their authorities have decided to revise their model of economic growth, by stimulating domestic consumption and imports: 8,000 billion dollars have been allocated for imports until 2015. The Romanian business sector must be deeply aware of this strategic orientation, in order to redirect their exports to the huge Chinese market in the medium and long term.

Reporter: What concrete measures are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Romanian Embassy in China considering in order to help these relations develop?

Doru Costea: Just like all of the Romanian embassies, we are committed to heavily promoting the economic diplomacy. Its main components, determined by the institutional positions of the diplomatic mission, include three categories of actions: the constant and credible information of the Chinese partners concerning the investments projects available in Romania; the promotion of Romanian products for export; the updated information, in both directions, concerning the evolution of the Romanian and the Chinese economy, respectively.

For each of these avenues of action, we have actions concentrated on groups of partners, in order to cultivate and keep their attention focused on the proposals made and on the state of our economies. We periodically hold meetings with the partners interested in the investment projects and in the seminars, round tables, symposiums with the Chinese and Romanian businesspeople; some of these events focus on specific niches - for example, on April 25th, the Romanian embassy in China hosted a seminar called "Romania - land of wine", which was attended by five wine makers and exporters from Romania and about 100 representatives of the Chinese wine importers, others focus on general topics; on May 28th, on the occasion of the visit in Beijing of Lucian Isar, the delegate minister for the business environment, we have organized a seminar presenting the investment projects in various areas. We also travel to the various provinces, where we present the potential for bilateral cooperation, with messages which are tailored to the specific needs of the local business communities.

We need to emphasize two fundamental aspects: first of all, the embassy can only play a part in economic diplomacy up to the point where the partners meet and agree on a project, including with the help of the negotiation expertise which we can offer through the nature of our profession. But the embassy can not complete the project itself; it can't be the one to obtain the licenses, the technical and legal permits, just like it can't submit for examination any superficial proposals, vague intentions or spur of the moment wishes. Speaking of the context of the crisis, we need to keep in mind that we are part of an increasingly competitive world: Romania is not the only country that has potential for growth, no matter how great they may be.

The second aspect: the tight horizontal cooperation between the government agencies in the country, the business sector and the embassy. Based on my personal experience in that regard, I wholeheartedly praise the very good cooperation and the intense and constructive dialogue between the embassy and the institutions in the country - the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Economy, first of all - as well as the willingness of the organizations of businesspeople to notify us about the projects they are considering. In a few months we plan to open a facility dedicated to the Romanian private sector which would act "on the spot", in China, through its representatives, and the initiatives of some county chambers of commerce to open offices in Chinese cities get our whole support.

Reporter: The Chinese businesspeople have complained that the Romanian authorities show no openness when it comes to the development of the Romanian-Chinese relations, especially due to the influence of the EU which warned its member states to be more prudent in their relations with China. How would you comment on that?

Doru Costea: The moment I get a concrete example of this type of behavior, I will be able to comment. Until then, I have to remind the results which the Chinese officials and those of the EU considered as excellent, at the end of the high level EU-China dialogue which took place in February, in Beijing; among other things, the partnership for urbanization issues was created; in June, the first high level energy problems summit took place; an intense cooperation in the area of the management of water resources is developing rapidly; Chinese investments in Europe are continuously increasing, and the number of arguments in favor of that thesis is growing. The strategic partnership between the EU and China is a relationship of an unprecedented complexity and scale, even unique in the landscape of the global economy, and the economic and commercial component is extremely dynamic: in 1992 the commercial exchanges were as much as inexistent, and in 2011 they have exceeded 460 billion Euros. At a seminar held in Brussels in June last year, it was said that, whereas between 2003 and 2008 the Chinese investments in Europe amounted to less than a billion Euros a year, in 2011 they reached 7 billion a year.

I think that cautiousness is one of the defining traits of professionalism, including when it comes to business: if being cautious means that the partners involved in a business need to be convinced that they are all acting in full compliance with the principles of the market economy, competition and transparency, with the legislation in effect on the territory in question, then the advice is welcome for everyone. Our Chinese partners are companies which adapt and increasingly integrate in the global business environment; it is a continuous learning process which is, besides, specific to Romanian businesspeople as well.

As for our openness towards the Chinese business circles, I am going to give you two examples, which may seem like mere details, but which are significant: between April 1st and June 21st, 2012, alone, the Consular Division of the Embassy in Beijing issued 596 business visas - accompanied by more visas of that type issued by the Romanian General Consulate in Shanghai. Many Chinese businesspeople which have Schengen visas can get to Romania, either by obtaining visas from other Romanian diplomatic missions in the EU member states, or in transit: regulations allow them to spend 5 days in Romania on their way home if they have that visa. It is obvious that the total number of Chinese businesspeople which come to Romania is greater than what we have recorded in Beijing.

The second "detail": we have allocated special consultation periods in the Consular Division for Chinese companies which are current or potential major partners in order to deal with their visa related issues, to make the waiting time as short as possible.

The willingness of the Romanian authorities and companies to cooperate with China has become a well known fact. There is an interdepartmental group dedicated to bilateral cooperation with China, coordinated by the delegated Minister for the business environment, who is a member of the Government, which takes the initiative launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2010 to a higher level. Minister Lucian Isar visited China in May, very little time after he took on his position and he has informed the Chinese partners, officials and representatives of the business circles, about the decision of the Romanian government to act resolutely and constantly in order to provide a real boost to the bilateral cooperation, especially when it comes to investments. We support the strategic approach of this cooperation, its medium and long term design: the very projects which we have in mind are designed in such a manner, considering their worth and the complexity of the cooperation processes needed for them to be completed.

Reporter: What are the areas of interest for the Chinese? What are the most important Chinese investments in Romania and how big are they?

Doru Costea: Infrastructure, conventional and renewable energy (wind and solar), environmental protection, IT, agriculture, to name just a few. On March 31st, 2012 Chinese investments in Romania amounted to USD 406 million; too little, in the opinion of both parties. Among the most important projects we note the bicycle factory of Deva; the cigarette factory of Pars-cov (Buzău), the laser etched printing cylinders plant of Ploieşti, the apparel factory of Giurgiu, the Huawei R&D center of Bucharest, and others.

Reporter: What are the most important Romanian investments in China?

Doru Costea: At the moment we have no investments in China. There are however joint ventures for importing and selling Romanian wines in China, in Harbin, Tianjin and Ningbo and a Romanian maritime shipping company in Shanghai.

Reporter: Thank you!

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