SHANGHAI – Shanghai officials are seeking to revive confidence among multinational companies battered and frustrated by the city’s 2019 coronavirus disease lockout (COVID-19) by holding several meetings with foreign companies and easing a key requirement at the border for overseas workers.
The image of China’s most cosmopolitan city and its largest business center was severely damaged by the two-month-long shutdown, with countless foreigners relocating and foreign companies warning that they are reconsidering investment plans.
Shanghai government plans to hold 20 meetings this month with foreign firms engaged in key industries such as automotive, trade, semiconductors and biomedicine, a report from Shanghai Jiefang Daily, a government-backed newspaper in Shanghai said on Sunday. The report was re-broadcast on Shanghai City’s website.
The companies would be selected from major investment countries and regions, including the United States, Europe, Japan and South Korea.
Four online meetings have so far been held since June 1, when the city eased its closure, according to statements by the Shanghai government.
The first was attended by executives from American blue chips such as Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, and the second included automakers Tesla, General Motors and Ford. The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
In addition, the European Chamber of Commerce said on Tuesday that it had been informed during a meeting with the city’s deputy mayor that Shanghai would no longer require official invitation letters, so-called PU letters, for foreigners returning to work and their relatives about what was become a bugbear for the expat community.
In early 2020, China began requiring foreigners to receive PU letters as part of their visa application, as it dramatically tightened border controls when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Many companies had complained about the difficulties and the long waits to get the document, which hindered the hiring of foreign staff.
‘INITIATIVE TO CALL FOR WORK’
The removal of this requirement was “an initiative of the central government to encourage the resumption of labor and production in Shanghai,” the European Chamber said.
Asked for comment on Wednesday, the Shanghai government referred to remarks made by city official Gu Jun at a news conference in late May, acknowledging that the epidemic had affected foreign trade and investment in the city.
He said the city would take steps to increase business confidence and support multinational corporations in setting up regional headquarters and research centers in Shanghai. It did not comment further.
Tom Simpson, chief executive of the China-Britain Business Council, said it expected to meet with the Shanghai government in the coming weeks.
Shanghai had given its members “more practical” support for the resumption of business, including the issuance of logistics permits and the reopening of department stores, he said.
During the shutdown, Shanghai tried to keep factories open during “closed circuits”, but companies said the arrangements posed several difficulties.
The lack of flights to China – the vast majority have been canceled for more than two years – also remains an important obstacle.
China has resolutely stuck to a “zero-COVID” policy aimed at eradicating the spread of the virus, an approach that is increasingly out of step with the rest of the world, with economies reopened after vaccination campaigns .
Joerg Wuttke, chairman of the EU chamber, said the zero-COVID policy not only lowered Shanghai’s attractiveness, but China as a whole, especially as other rival markets open up and try to lure companies away from China.
“The world will not wait for China to clean up this mess,” he said. – Reuters