Suzan Duvigneau has been in China for three years. She started in the hotel industry, then made her way to the Benelux Chamber of Commerce (Bencham). She spoke to CHINA ECONOMIC REVIEW about Benelux countries in China, and particularly their role in the upcoming Expo.
Q: We understand that Chinese law for foreign chambers of commerce is a bit complex here. Can you describe the process?
A: Yes, I must say it is challenging for foreign chambers to register officially here. The official registration must be done in Beijing, and the whole process takes a very long time and is very complex. However, when you are finally registered, your chamber becomes more professional in a way.
Q: But informally Bencham started in Shanghai. To what extent was this a problem for you?
A: There are ways to set up secondary chapters in other cities and still comply with the law. The Chinese government knows there are chapters of different chambers of commerce around China.
Q: What role is Bencham playing in the Expo?
A: We are blessed to have three pavilions. We are not formally involved in the pavilions, but we are in touch with them, trying to have events there to get the Bencham out there for the Expo.
Q: How deeply are your members involved?
A: A lot of our members are involved in the Expo. Some are supplying HR solutions, others have taken over management of the pavilions, and yet others are involved in construction, maintenance and other services. For the Benelux business visitors, this is an opportunity for them to see what they can do here.
Q: How are the pavilions trying to present Benelux to Chinese?
A: The term Benelux is not well known here. I always have to explain that it means three countries. Once I do, most people know about windmills and wooden shoes, the beer and the chocolate – the standard things. But that’s not the only thing that the countries represent. They are known for their friendly business climate, being very open to different cultures, and a history of trade harking back to the golden eras in Holland and Belgium.