By Devapriyo Das, Yang Jingzhong
COPENHAGEN, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- The Danish prime minister's ongoing official visit to China is an opportunity to attract more Chinese investment to Denmark, while boosting trade, experts here said.
Accompanied by a raft of Danish business leaders representing sectors such as wind-turbine manufacture, food products and temperature-control systems, PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt expects her visit, which will end on Thursday, to deepen commercial ties between the two countries.
Her trip followed an official visit to Denmark by China's President Hu Jintao in June, when 17 inter-governmental agreements were signed in areas such as investment, tariffs, energy and agriculture.
Karsten Dybvad, CEO of the Confederation of Danish Industry, said Thorning-Schmidt is sending an "important signal" by making her return visit a high priority.
"It shows we will trade with each other and that we are trade partners one can rely on," he added.
Hu's visit, the first ever by a Chinese head of state to this Nordic country, also saw 3.4 billion U.S. dollars worth of deals concluded between Chinese and Danish companies in sectors such as renewable energy technologies, ports services, and dairy products.
Dybvad said he expects Thorning-Schmidt's follow-up visit "will open doors for Danish business to grow further in China," and added that he hoped it also "will set the foundations for Chinese companies to invest more in Denmark."
According to Invest in Denmark, the national investment authority, just 45 Chinese companies, including those based in Taiwan and Hong Kong, were registered in Denmark as of December, 2010. The biggest among these include telecoms firm Huawei, and wind-turbine manufacturer Envision, both of which have research and development facilities here.
Kjeld Erik Broedsgaard, Director of the Asia Research Center at Copenhagen Business Schools said Chinese companies' total investment in Denmark equals a modest 300 million Danish kroner (around 51 million dollars), far below the level that the nearly 500 Danish companies operating in China have invested there.
"The Danish prime minister should try to convince Chinese leaders that it is time to encourage especially state-owned companies to invest in Denmark," he added.
Advantages of doing business in Denmark include its open, stable economy, and the fact that its national currency, the Danish kroner, is a safe haven for investors from the turmoil in the euro common currency zone.
Moreover, Chinese investors "can use Denmark as a hub for their European activities," said Tom Jensen, Secretary General of the Danish-Chinese Business Council.
These conditions have prompted Danish Trade and Investment Minister Pia Olsen Dyhr to talk about "the very attractive investment climate in Denmark," during her official visit to China from Sept. 8-10.
Dyhr, who met China's Minister of Commerce Chen Deming and addressed a Chinese trade ministry investment conference in Xiamen, also attended a meeting in the Danish-Chinese Joint Committee during the trip.
"It is the first time that the meeting will be chaired at ministerial level, a testimony to our strengthening ties. The purpose of this meeting is to improve conditions for our companies to do business in our countries," Dyhr said to Xinhua ahead of her visit.
Boosting exports to China remains the immediate concern for Danish companies, given that the vast Chinese market has helped compensate for drop in demand for Danish goods in Denmark's traditional export destinations in Europe.
China now ranks amongst Denmark's biggest markets outside the EU, and the share of Danish exports to China and Hong Kong has risen 50 percent since 2008, the Danish Trade Ministry said. Danish exports to China were worth 15.1 billion Danish kroner (around 2.7 billion dollars) in 2011, and rose 12 percent in the first six months of 2012 alone, it added.
Thorning-Schmidt has said the sectors she will prioritize during her visit include those where Denmark has competitive edges, such as waste water management, renewable energy technologies, food safety products, and industrial design.
Moreover, Danish pharmaceutical and healthcare companies expect a big market for treatment of lifestyle and age-related diseases in China's big, rapidly ageing population.
Indeed, Danish companies could help supply China's needs as it transits to a more sustainable and green economy in accordance with its current Five-Year Plan, and as it emphasizes domestic consumption and welfare.
"That shows there are great possibilities, so Danish producers of consumers goods should really look into the Chinese market and find good Chinese partners so they can together build up a good consumer market in China," Jensen said.
Experts here also agreed that robust policies are needed to ensure a level playing field for foreign companies looking to invest in China.
In fact, the Chinese and Danish patent authorities signed a cooperation agreement to establish a program to quicken examination of patent applications at one patent authority, if the other has already approved it, in late August.
Jensen said to Xinhua that these measures will "make it much easier for Danish companies to register their patents in China because it will make the procedures shorter."
While such policy measures could positively impact Danish business in the long run, the diplomatic goodwill generated by Thorning-Schmidt's visit could benefit it much sooner.
"This is the eighth time a Danish prime minister visits China and it is a reflection of the importance Denmark allocates to Danish-Chinese commercial and political relations," Broedsgaard said.
"It should be remembered that good political relations will provide a good background and context for promoting the economic and commercial relationship," he added.