On the week of 9 to 13 January, a delegation of industry representatives from the European Union Chamber of Commerce – one of the EU SME Centre’s implementing partners – led by President Joerg Wuttke visited Brussels. During that week, the delegation joined a total of 48 meetings, 25 of which were high level, with representatives from EU institutions, think tanks and business associations. Some of the high level stakeholders the delegation held exchanges with include Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for the People Valdis Dombrovskis; the Heads of Cabinet for European Council President Charles Michel, High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell and Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for a Digital Age Margrethe Vestager; European Commission Director-Generals and Deputy Director-Generals for Trade, Internal Market, Transportation and Mobility, Healthcare, Energy, Financial Services, Research and Innovation and others; and Chinese Ambassador to the EU Fu Cong. The delegation also met with representatives from leading business associations such as EU SME Centre associated partner EU-China Business Association, the European Round Table of Industrialists, BusinessEurope and the China Chamber of Commerce in the EU. Delegates also met with researchers from leading European think tanks, including Bruegel, MERICS, EPC and ECIPE among others.
The European Chamber delegation included SME representatives who brought up some of the key issues experienced by European SMEs in China during exchanges with European stakeholders. Some of the key topics they discussed include the impact of lockdowns and travel restrictions on the operations of SMEs, as well as longstanding issues such as access to financing and late payments. The role of EU-funded projects like the EU SME Centre in supporting European small businesses looking to enter the Chinese market was highlighted.
“The basis of sound and inclusive policymaking is on-the-ground information that includes the views from wide range of stakeholders. Given their significant contribution to both EU and Chinese economic growth, employment and innovation, we at the European Chamber work hard through projects like the EU SME Centre to ensure not only that European SMEs get access to services and information they need to operate in China, but also that their concerns and recommendations are heard by both high level and working level EU and Chinese policymakers.”
Carlo d’Andrea, European Chamber Vice President and EU Tour 2023 delegate
“The pandemic created a huge gap in the people to people relationship, as well as in the understanding and awareness of the ongoing situation in China. MNCs have large teams, GA departments fully dedicated to advocate for them in EU institutions and with Chinese authorities, while SMEs can’t afford it. I had the pleasure to join the European Chamber’s EU Tour already ten times, and I can surely say that, this time, more than ever, it was a fundamental opportunity, after a long time, to directly debrief the officials about the concerns and daily issues European SMEs experience in China.”
Massimo Bagnasco, European Chamber Vice President and EU Tour 2023 delegate
“SME representatives are ‘en masse ambassadors’ in the effort to strengthen trade relations between the European Union and the People’s Republic of China.”
Fabian Blake, Vice Chair of the European Chamber’s South China Board and EU Tour 2023 delegate
If you are interested in learning more about the main messages (including those linked to the SME experience) the European Chamber delegation delivered to their EU counterparts during the EU Tour as well as the key takeaways of this trip, listen to the European Chamber’s latest China Dispatches Podcast episode: EU Tour and the Future of EU-China Relations.