by Marian Draganov
SOFIA, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- Bulgaria will make a step in the right direction as it is organizing an investment forum in Shanghai in November, because the Balkan country needs more popularity in China, experts have said.
"Relevant Bulgarian authorities should organize appropriate forums for investment, to say what are the conditions in Bulgaria for foreign investment, what are the benefits," Lu Yongming, economic and commercial counselor at the Chinese embassy in Sofia, told a recent interview with Xinhua.
"Chinese are not well informed about it," Lu said.
For example, in the last four to five years, China's central and local governments have organized some five business forums in Bulgaria almost every year, while Bulgaria "may not have organized" such a business forum in China, Lu said.
Bulgaria has advantages such as good location and convenient transport conditions, Lu said.
Krastio Belev, who has rich experience of doing business with China and currently serves as a Director of the Travel and Investment Promotion Centre of Bulgaria in Shanghai, has told Xinhua that Bulgaria should stress at every meeting that it is part of a larger market, the European Union (EU).
It should try to attract Chinese industries that already have a presence in the EU market and suffer either from lack of quotas or from some higher duty barriers, Belev said.
"Understanding and knowledge of the country, the people, the manners, the customs, the market is what is missing in the Sino-Bulgarian relations," Belev said, urging more efforts to attract Chinese investment.
In recent years, economic and trade relations between China and Bulgaria have been developing dynamically, and great successes in this field were achieved, Lu said.
Last year, trade turnover between China and Bulgaria amounted to 1.46 billion U.S. dollars, a record in the bilateral trade, Lu said.
He also stressed that for the last three to four years, Chinese direct investment in Bulgaria has increased, pointing the Insigma's desulphurization project in the Bulgarian energy complex "Maritsa Iztok 2", the joint venture between Great Wall Motors and Litex Commerce, and the agriculture venture of Tianjin State Farms Agribusiness Group Company in North West Bulgaria.
"The Chinese government has been paying great attention to the development of economic and trade relations between China and Bulgaria, and they will develop in the ascending line in the future," Lu said.
"GLASS DOORS" FOR CHINESE INVESTORS
Chinese companies, separately or together with Bulgarian companies, can do a lot of infrastructure projects such as highways, ports and airports, Lu said.
"Bulgaria should open the door for Chinese companies in this area, but now the country only opens wickets. There are restrictions on Chinese investment in major infrastructure projects. In theory, there is no limit, but in fact, there is. This is a very big issue," Lu said.
Problems with visas, particularly work visas, are a major obstacle for Chinese investment in Bulgaria, Lu said.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the two countries have stressed many times that China and Bulgaria have had traditional friendship and political trust, Lu said.
"This is a sound basis for economic cooperation," he said.
BULGARIA SHOULD DO MORE ADVERTISING
Speaking about the Bulgarian exports to China, Lu said that quality goods made in the Balkan country such as wine and rose products are relatively unknown in China.
"Our experts believe that Bulgarian wine has a good balance between price and quality, but there is no good demand on our market so far because our people do not know it well," Lu said.
Bulgaria should do more advertising in China, he said.
Neli Nanova, Head of Commercial and Economic Office at the Bulgarian Embassy in Beijing, said Bulgaria is very popular in China as a country that produces ecologically clean food such as juices, dairy products and red wines.
However, this market requires very large amounts of money on marketing, Nanova said.
It would be good if Bulgarian wine producers establish regional associations and jointly do mass advertising in China's "difficult, but very promising market," Belev said.
Sharing his experience of doing business with China, Belev said that the personal contact is very important.
"Confucian and East Asian culture of negotiation requires one to know his counterparts, so Bulgarian businessmen should be more active. Frequent travel to China, at least once a year, is necessary, and direct contact is important even with long-term partners," Belev said.
He has worked directly with manufacturers, explained and showed what he needed. It is difficult to do this via e-mail, Belev said.
"We have worked a lot on the spot in China with manufacturers to introduce products that are acceptable in our market, which means CE certification, packaging according to European standards, etc.," Belev said.
SEE, TOUCH, BUY
Misunderstandings in the trade between Bulgaria and China are few, said Lu, meanwhile noting that in business for a large sum of money, it is better for Bulgarian businesspersons to go to China or Chinese businesspersons to come to Bulgaria.
The two parties must sign an official, strict contract, he said.
It is good when contracts consist of an arbitration clause because something could happen, even in long-term partnership, Nanova said.
"My advice to Bulgarian businessman is to do what is called 'due diligence', to check their counterparts, want their certificates, to make no payments to private accounts, and of course the best thing they can do is to visit China on the spot, to get acquainted with manufacturers of products they wish to import," Belev said.