AmCham South China President on Foreign Direct Investment Trends

By Ryan Gandolfo, July 8, 2021

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Game Theory is a regular series where we speak with a professional with insight into China’s business and tech scene.

With three decades of experience connecting foreign businesses to the Chinese market, Dr. Harley Seyedin is a reliable source for US-China economic and trade policy. 

We reached out to Seyedin to learn about Guangzhou’s cross-border e-commerce developments, foreign direct investment trends in China and the latest updates on the AmCham South China community.

How would you assess Guangzhou’s current cross-border e-commerce (CBEC) industry? 
I would say that it has great potential and has competitive advantages. Firstly, COVID-19 has definitely changed the way people do business. A combination of factors, including changing global trade policies, cancellation of orders, and a decrease in international logistics capacity, has posed enormous challenges to the traditional foreign trade industry but at the same time presents tremendous opportunities to the cross-border e-commerce industry.

Secondly, Guangzhou has achieved an import and export volume of RMB6.51 billion (USD917.4 million) through Guangzhou Customs’ management platforms for cross-border e-commerce in the first quarter of 2020, thus topping over other cities in China for cross-border e-commerce. AmCham South China’s bilingual 2021 Special Report on the State of Business in Guangzhou shows Guangzhou has been stepping up efforts to optimize its business environment with the aim of creating the best investment destination for global enterprises. 

“A vast majority of companies still have expansion plans in China over the next three years”

Examples abound that Guangzhou has launched a series of policies and announced specific measures to stimulate market vitality as well as enhance trade facilitation. It’s also important to note that the Guangzhou Municipal Commerce Bureau released The Several Measures on March 30, 2021, which makes Guangzhou the first city in China to issue special policies to help boost the innovative development of cross-border e-commerce. 

Hence, one can say without hesitation that it is a thriving industry with huge potential and substantial advantages. 

AmCham South China President Dr. Harley Seyedin

What type of impact do you think The Several Measures rolled out by the bureau of commerce can have in further developing this industry?
The Bureau of Commerce’s The Several Measure would certainly help accelerate the innovative development of cross-border e-commerce in five aspects: namely business environment, main market players, innovation capacity, international marketing network, and the training of professionals. 

We know that the inspection of cross-border e-commerce B2B export goods will be prioritized, financing support will be increased to help CBEC enterprises, an online dispute resolution (ODR) platform will be established to settle CBEC related disputes, and global high-quality capital will be brought in to facilitate the development of the local CBEC industry, and so forth. 

Needless to say, Guangzhou is promoting the cross-border e-commerce industry at full stretch. And I have every reason to feel sanguine about this booming industry with the supportive and practical measures rolled out by the Bureau of Commerce. Furthermore, over 2,300 members of AmCham will certainly benefit from this new policy and evolving industry.

China led all other countries in foreign direct investment in a year that saw global FDI drop 42% and has shown impressive inflows so far this year. What’s your outlook for the rest of 2021?
I am confident and positive about the rest of 2021. In fact, AmCham South China’s annual bilingual studies – the 2021 White Paper on the Business Environment in China and the 2021 Special Report on the State of Business in South China – show that the opportunities continue to outweigh the challenges. 

Factors including huge market potential, preferential policies and uncertainties from the pandemic in other countries, have whetted companies’ interest to increase investment in China or shift their investments to China. 

Furthermore, a vast majority of companies still have expansion plans in China over the next three years. We know that our member companies have budgeted USD18.3 billion to reinvest in China over the next three years. As the first major economy to show a recovery, China has successfully navigated the extreme hardship brought by the COVID-19, and I am sure it will achieve more continuous, stable and sustainable growth throughout the rest of 2021.

What has impressed you the most about the AmCham South China member community in working through this slowing pandemic? 
I believe what has impressed me the most is the community solidarity in these difficult times. To be more specific, at the onset of COVID-19 AmCham South China members were quick to jump into action and by mid-February 2020 had already donated USD38 million in cash and USD1.05 million in-kind to aid Wuhan, Hubei, and other areas in need. Additionally, I am more than delighted to share that the 550 members and dignitaries attending our 2020 Hope Ball donated cash to the Guangzhou Women and Children’s Hospital. 

Sad to say, since May 21, Guangzhou has seen many new coronavirus cases. Albeit, Guangzhou is ramping up efforts to bring the surge under control and provide medical relief to those in need. There is no doubt that we will stay as strong and united as ever in the face of such a devastating crisis by helping one another. After all, united we stand.

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[Cover image via Loeng Lig/Unsplash]

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