Foreign consultants help improve local government

Updated: 2014-03-06 13:40

(China Daily)

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In an effort to improve public services for foreign investors, officials in the city of Foshan are taking a new approach.

The city's foreign trade and economic cooperation bureau now has three foreign consultants in place, and more may be added in the near future, according to the bureau.

"We are adopting the optimal practice for promoting our investment climate," noted Zhou Zhitong, director-general of the bureau. "Our new team with foreign professionals is expected to maximize our outreach to foreign companies."

The official said that Foshan needs not only to create a "foreigner-friendly" visual identity but also to provide foreign investors with an internal easy-to-reach consultation tool to access investment opportunities.

And foreign professionals help local officials and enterprises learn about global markets and overseas investment opportunities in their attempts to expand globally.

"I'm satisfied with their performance," Zhou told China Daily in a recent interview. "We may seek some more, depending on the business demand."

Three foreign professionals have won the renewable one-year employment contract as investment consultants. They are Chris Blake and Abbey Heffer from the United Kingdom, and Nicolas Santo from Uruguay.

"Foreign professionals bring strong and multilingual research skills and enhance Foshan's capabilities for inbound and outbound investment promotion," said Santo, a Uruguayan lawyer who received a master's degree from Tsinghua University in Beijing and formerly held a position at the Harvard Law School as a visiting scholar.

"New opportunities will become easier to detect if you are familiar with the places you need to look for and if you know how to get in touch with the key people there," he added.

Santo also encouraged local business people to go abroad for alluring investment but at the same time advised that they learn to adapt to new realities and cast off the assumption that what works well in China will also do elsewhere.

In the eyes of Blake, the bureau's initiative to hire foreign professionals is a two-way partnership.

"As foreigners, we are learning more about the great developments and prospects here and cooperating with our Chinese colleagues to achieve important goals," he said. "They are also gaining more firsthand experience working with foreigners, sharing knowledge and expertise."

"Mutually we're benefiting from each other's unique languages and cultures," he said.

Well versed in multimedia design and development as well as in marketing and branding, Blake is designing a new website for the bureau's investment-promotion agency.

"The website is simply a window into Foshan, which provides the unique opportunities the city has and the knowledge and experience of the international people who reside here", he said.

The new portal, which will come online very soon, is expected to act as a digital handshake and become one of the best and most informative websites of all investment promotion agencies on the mainland.

Both Santo and Blake agreed that Foshan is a dynamic city worth recommendation to foreign investors.

And they cited many factors as Foshan's appeals. They include the city's pioneering and forward-thinking initiatives, favorable investment policies, administrative efficiency and transparency, world-class infrastructure and facilities, availability of skilled workers and vocational education programs, domestic market bonanzas, cost-effective living and fantastic lifestyle.

Foreign consultants help improve local government