João Pedro Pereira, who before taking up his position as president of PorCham, was a candidate for the PS Socialist party in Porto

“Government needs to restart visits to China”, says business group

PorCham wants to restart visits with “maximum urgency”

The chairman of a Luso-Chinese business group has said today that the Portuguese government should resume visits to China with “maximum urgency,” with a view to boosting trade, investment and tourism with the world’s second-largest economy.

“I notice that there is a lack of greater involvement from the Portuguese government, greater attention from the Portuguese authorities, so that we can make the leap to a new stage of development of bilateral relations,” PorCham president João Pedro Pereira told Lusa news agency at the end of a two-week visit to China.

“I think this is a very urgent issue, and I myself, after having been in China, have been in contact not only with the office of the prime minister António Costa but also with the office of the Secretary of State for Internationalisation, Bernardo Ivo Cruz,” he said.

Pereira noted China’s potential in the electric mobility sector as the country takes the lead in the automotive sector, Lusa explains.

Last year, nearly six million electric cars were sold in China – more than in all the other countries of the world put together.

The size of the Chinese market has propitiated the rise of local brands, including BYD, NIO or Xpeng, which now threaten the ‘status quo’ of an industry dominated for decades by German, Japanese and US manufacturers.

Chinese dominance also extends to the battery industry: the Chinese companies CATL and BYD are the world’s largest manufacturers, says Pereira.

“Portugal has to work very hard with the decision-makers of these companies,” he suggests, adding that (in his opinion) attracting Chinese tourists and Portuguese exports to China remain “below their potential”.

According to figures provided to Lusa by Tiago Brito, the permanent representative of Portugal Tourism in China, over 385,000 Chinese visited Portugal in 2019, the year before the pandemic. Tourists from China spent a total of €224 million in the country, a growth of 20% compared to 2018.

China, the world’s biggest emitter of tourists, kept its borders closed for almost three years under the “zero covid” policy, which was dismantled last December.

Since then, dozens of heads of State and government have visited Beijing, including the leaders of Germany, Brazil, Spain and France – attesting to the country’s growing economic and diplomatic weight, considers Pereira.

The PorCham boss – a former candidate for the PS Socialist party – explains that he met with 175 businesspeople and investors in four different cities during his visit, pointing to the need to “demystify” (his words) the Portuguese government’s decision to end the ‘golden’ visa programme – the residence programme for investment activity that China ‘supported’ massively (Chinese people being by way the top nationality taking advantage of the scheme).

“There have been many questions about whether Portugal continues to welcome foreign investment and Chinese investment because the end of the ‘golden visas’ passed the idea that Portugal is no longer as welcoming of Chinese investment as it was up until that time,” Pereira went on, adding: “You have to take care of the way the message is conveyed“.

“We know that the Chinese market has a lot of liquidity and that there is a great development in the investment fund market,” he went on.

“This is fundamental for a country like Portugal, which has a business design mostly composed of small and medium-sized enterprises, which have many difficulties in access to credit”.

PorCham has 55 members, which represent a total turnover of €2.5 billion, including Chinese companies with interests in Portugal and Portuguese groups such as Sodécia, Delta Cafés and Quinta da Marmeleira, with interests in China. The business group also includes Banco Nacional Ultramarino, which has its headquarters in Macau.

With headquarters in Guangzhou, the biggest city in southern China, PorCham also has representative offices in Shanghai, the country’s economic “capital,” and on Hainan Island. The group opened a support and cultural activities space in Beijing this month, concludes Lusa.

This weighty text comes in the wake of Portugal’s decision to exclude Chinese operators from the country’s 5G telecoms network.

Source material: LUSA