Seize the Chinese opportunity
Source: Insider North West
Businesses leaders in Liverpool have been urged to seize the opportunity by trading with China – but warned against expecting instant results.
That was the message from a panel of experts at the latest 'It's Liverpool in China' event organised by Liverpool Vision and the Commercial District BID. The discussion was hosted by HSBC in Liverpool and chaired by North West Business Insider editor Chris Maguire.
About 70 attendees heard the first-hand experiences of dealing with China from Dolan Bikes founder Terry Dolan, RS Clare chairman Ian Meadows, Arup associate director Martin Simpson and Liverpool City Council cabinet member Nick Small.
Liverpool was the only UK city with a dedicated pavilion at Shanghai Expo in 2010 and the city has hosted about 40 Chinese delegations since it finished.
RS Clare & Co is a Liverpool manufacturer of special greases and surface coatings and was founded in 1748. Meadows has worked for the company for 40 years and does business on three fronts in China: rail, high friction surfacing and oil and gas.
He said: "China is important to the future. At the moment it generates around £500,000 of our sales of £30m. More ships are being built in China so our products will be in greater demand.
"China is now more frenetic then when I first went. More and more the state authorities want the best in the world rather than the cheap commodities and they are prepared to go all over the world to find it.
"I was involved in the twinning of Shanghai and Liverpool but it was still tough for an SME to get into China. If they want you it will take off."
Dolan Bikes, whose bikes have been ridden by top cyclists including Sir Chris Hoy, Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins, has been dealing with China since 1997. The company, which has a turnover of around £2m, sources around 70 per cent of its materials from China.
Dolan said: "It's a massive opportunity for everybody. Fifteen years ago everybody had mopeds, now they're in cars. Everyone has a mobile phone. The people you are dealing with are sophisticated business people. You have to show them respect."
Simpson is an associate director with Arup and spent last year working in the company's Shanghai office. He previously worked on the China National Stadium project for the 2008 Olympics – also known as the Bird's Nest – and has travelled extensively in China.
He said: "There are opportunities in China but it's not Eldorado. It's not the land of gold. The best way to be successful in China is to have local people who can understand the local nuances.
"The thing about China is there is a huge divergence between the emerging middle classes and the working classes. There is a huge thirst for betterment. This translates into a huge thirst for growth and a huge thirst for consuming materials."
Small has been involved in a number of delegations to China and said: "It's even more of an opportunity now than it was after the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010.
"I think the biggest opportunity comes from exporting to China rather than inward investment. The inward investment will come."
Nicola Harris, investment and international manager at Liverpool Vision, added: "The effects of World Expo will be felt for a long time, not only through the deals that are being done and yet-to-be-done by our businesses and the increased interest in Liverpool in trading with China, but also because of the initiatives Liverpool and our partners have in place.
"Peel, for example, has secured £25m of investment for their International Trade Centre in Wirral through Expo, which is one of three key sites for the International Festival of Business in 2014, when the strength of our collective Chinese relationships will be evident.
"Liverpool Vision, working with others, is continually developing our international strategy and we are keen to receive feedback from companies to help shape and drive the activity of 'It's Liverpool in China'."
Pic caption (l to r): RS Clare chairman Ian Meadows, Dolan Bikes founder Terry Dolan, associate director of Arup Martin Simpson and Liverpool City Council cabinet member Nick Small.
For more information on the Liverpool in China network visit www.itsliverpoolinchina.co.uk