THE HAGUE — Chinese and Dutch businesses applauded bilateral commercial ties in The Hague, saying the economies of China and the Netherlands are highly complementary and cooperation is needed against the backdrop of rising protectionism.
During a visit in The Hague on Oct 16, Premier Li Keqiang said China will take tougher measures to protect intellectual property in order to create a favorable environment for innovation.
Premier Li made the remarks when addressing the China-Netherlands Business Forum in The Hague, which gathered over 400 business leaders and representatives from the two countries.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte during a speech highlighted the vigorous development of Dutch-Sino relations, particularly in trade and investment, two areas that continue to enjoy robust growth.
The Netherlands rose to become China’s second-largest trade partner within the European Union (EU), whereas China is the Netherlands’s second-largest non-EU trade partner, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce.
There are around 900 Dutch companies active in China. Some 650 Chinese companies have a base in the Netherlands, according to Dutch government figures.
“All current Chinese investors have their specific reasons to choose to invest in the Netherlands. Yet a common denominator is that they enjoy the benefits of a truly welcoming ‘eco-system’, in which their European strategy takes firm roots, and their business grows fortuitously,” said Jeroen Nijland, Commissioner of the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA), in a written interview ahead of the forum.
Earlier this year, NFIA China presented the Invest in Holland Outstanding Contribution Award to 19 Chinese companies - including telecommunication giant Huawei - in recognition of creating employment opportunities in the Netherlands through direct investment.
The Netherlands “are proud of companies such as Huawei and Yili who are doing so well here,” said Hans de Boer, President of the Dutch business and employers’ organization VNO-NCW, in a written interview ahead of the forum on Oct 15, which he moderated.
When it comes to large-scale bilateral business ties between China and the Netherlands, intellectual property rights (IPR) is one area in need of improvement.
“There is fear in public opinion about things such as the loss of intellectual property,” said de Boer, adding that “it is important that we discuss this with each other so that we can grow together and strengthen trust.”
At the forum, Premier Li vowed to further strengthen IPR protection, saying that China by no means allows any forced transfer of the IPR. “Any transfer of IPR must be based on the will of the enterprises.”
Without IPR protection, cooperation in innovation is impossible and expansion of investment in the Chinese market lacks foundation, Premier Li said.
The Premier said any IPR violation in China will be severely punished in accordance with the law.
Rounds of applause were often heard from speeches in the forum, with one of the attendants summing up the atmosphere as “really great.”
Margot Malipaard, an entrepreneur who runs the consultancy firm Global Trade Match, said she “feels like we are really connecting between the Netherlands and China.”
Jane Jie Sun, CEO of Chinese online travel giant Ctrip, which signed a strategic cooperation agreement with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines just ahead of the forum, said that her company brought a swarm of Chinese tourists to the Netherlands, and more flights between the two countries have brought the two countries closer than ever before.
With China’s increased opening-up to the outside world and more transparent business environment, companies from both countries stand to gain, Sun added.
Top Chinese dairy company Yili recently expanded its European research and development center located on the Wageningen University campus. The company said it would connect more European partners to boost food innovation.
Throughout the centuries, this relatively small European country has been one of the world’s leading trading nations.
Perhaps no other business than the Dutch company Philips exemplifies the country’s global reach.
A 127-year-old company, Philips has had a global presence and deep roots in Europe since 1891, China since the 1920s and the US since 1933.
Today, Philips has a balanced research and development, manufacturing and commercial footprint across these regions, with its manufacturing workforce more or less equally divided between China, Europe and the US.
Take for example its magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners that are used for the diagnosis and treatment of many diseases including cardiovascular diseases, cancer and brain diseases. Philips produces the magnets and coils in the US and certain other components in China, develops software in India and does the final assembly in Europe.
“Such global supply chains require multilateral trade agreements,” the company told Xinhua, “We hope that the global trade tensions will go away, because Philips is deeply convinced that globalization drives prosperity for the whole world.”
“By working together and reducing trade barriers, there is a lot of welfare gain for everyone,” said de Boer. “That is a big responsibility.”