Business ties between China and Austria to only get stronger
Strategic partnership fostering trade in complementary products, increased investment, more opportunities
China and Austria will continue to diversify economic cooperation and build stronger trade ties in the coming years, as their products are complementary with many consensuses on developing the Central and Eastern Europe market being reached, said experts and business leaders.
"The reinforced economic and trade relations between the two countries will bring a beneficial situation. China has a profound market for imports from Austria, which can raise local employment and enhance the country's strength in developing regional connectivity," said Liu Xin, a researcher specializing in regional economic development at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.
He said both countries have more space to expand trade and investment, and deepen cooperation in such fields as high-end manufacturing, modern services, environmental protection and urbanization.
Thanks to the control of the pandemic through vaccinations, as well as a growing number of China-Europe freight trains, the trade value between China and Austria soared 35.8 percent year-on-year to $4.28 billion in the first four months of 2021, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.
China exports mainly construction machinery, computers, transport equipment, chemical products, raw-material electronics, textiles, garments and household appliances to Austria. Austrian exports to China are auto and machinery parts, power-generating equipment, general industrial machinery, measuring and control instruments and textile fibers.
Ren Xingzhou, a research fellow at the Institute for Market Economy of the Development Research Center of the State Council, said Austria's strategic location in the center of Europe, innovation-based economic development model, and supportive policies to develop markets related to the Belt and Road Initiative can be used as a base for cooperation with China and other participating economies.
She said numerous Austrian technologies can be exported to China, from automation, nanotechnology, robotics, green technology and aspects of healthcare such as nursing, to more local industries such as wood, cable cars and winter sports knowledge, ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
China and Austria agreed to establish a Sino-Austrian strategic partnership and signed 11 intergovernmental cooperation documents in tech innovation and development related to the BRI in April 2018. It created more opportunities for domestic companies to enhance economic links with the country.
Daniel Beatty, general manager for Greater China at Red Bull, the Austria-headquartered energy drink maker, said China's southern and eastern regions have grown notably for the company's products in recent years.
Together with top-tier cities and new first-tier cities, such as Hangzhou in Zhejiang province and Chengdu in Sichuan province, Red Bull is positioned as the most premium energy drink in China. He added that the company will continue to connect with consumers who believe in high-quality products with a strong brand resonance in the country.
In 2020, 8.6 billion cans of energy drink were sold in China. This is expected to grow 44 percent over the next five years, according to market research group Euromonitor.
"Therefore, the potential is huge. Red Bull, as a major energy drink brand in the world, will invest in consumer marketing and bring full marketing activities to China, and expand our distribution channels by partnership with Budweiser China," he added.
Beatty's opinion is shared by Liu Qiufang, marketing director for Greater China at Andritz, the Austrian plant engineering group with its headquarters in the city of Graz, Austria. She said the company has always been bullish in the Chinese market, especially after last year's outbreak of COVID-19, when Chinese society returned to a normal state within a short period of time.
"Since China was the only country to register positive economic growth last year in the world, Andritz will increase investment in China despite the severe economic environment last year. This has fully demonstrated our confidence in this lucrative market," she said. Liu Qiufang added that the company has been transferring advanced production and technology from Europe to China for many years.
The businesses Andritz serves are across China. It serves a wide range of industries, involving pulp and paper, the metal industry, separation technology and hydropower generation.
Liu Qiufang said the company's sales growth in the pulp and paper industries to date has been encouraging, as many clients have increased their investment in these areas. This has offered Andritz attractive growth opportunities.
"We have witnessed rising demand for our products and services in almost all regions of China. With continuously improving living quality and growing spending power, Chinese consumers are now looking for more high-quality products for their homes," said Georg Prager, overseas commercial director of Egger, another Austrian company producing wood-based panel products.
Additionally, due to the effects of COVID-19 since last year, he said people are paying more attention to their home environment. This is because the "stay-at-home" economy or trend has become common in many countries under lockdown. The remarkable sales growth in furnishings is happening in Europe as well as the United States.
"With demand growing toward high-quality furnishing materials in the Chinese market, we expect the further potential from end consumers, designers and project owners in China and seek all kinds of possibilities to meet their needs," said Jennifer Chen, Egger's general manager for China.
Next to the sales distribution network across China, Egger has been committed to strengthening its local team in order to provide better services. With constantly growing sales and marketing team, the company's goal is not only to better serve its distribution partners, but to keep developing new business channels.
Wang Jun, a researcher at the Beijing-based China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said Austria has close ties with Central and Eastern European countries and has developed networks with strong contacts and specific business opportunities. Austrian businesses have also been leading investors in CEE countries and have established a market network there.
Attracted by these elements, Chinese companies－such as China Electronics Technology Group Corp and China Railway Rolling Stock Corp's Zhuzhou branch－have set up their European headquarters in Austria. Bank of China has established a branch in Vienna over several years.
China Unicom, a telecoms provider, will open a branch in Austria this year to expand its presence in the country. It will pay particular attention to human, financial and material resources to better serve the demands of local and Chinese companies in CEE countries.
Liu Meijue, China Unicom's head for Austria and the Czech Republic, said China Unicom is optimistic about the business environment in Austria, one of the most economically stable countries in the world, as well as its surrounding economies in the region.
Apart from stimulating investment activities, China will hold the second China-Central and Eastern European Countries Expo in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, from June 8-11. It will explore opportunities to boost trade in consumer goods and services with CEE nations, according to the Ministry of Commerce and the Zhejiang provincial government, its organizers.
The expo's trade shows are grouped under three categories: a CEEC exhibition, an international consumer goods exhibition, and a permanent exhibition of imported commodities, said Zhu Congjiu, vice-governor of Zhejiang province.
The total floor area of the exhibition is 200,000 square meters. More than 2,000 exhibitors and 6,000 buyers are expected to participate.