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Offering opportunities and relief in a time of turmoil
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08:44, December 25, 2008

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China's first platform for international trade in cultural goods and services, the Shanghai International Cultural Service Trade Platform, was officially launched on September 28, 2008 in the city's bonded area.

An important facility of the platform, the 130-m-high Oriental International Cultural Trade Center is close to Customs Terminal 2 of Shanghai Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone and has about 59,000 sq m of gross floor area.

The Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone, the first and largest among the 14 free trade zones on the mainland, has attracted 150 of the companies on the Fortune 500 list to open offices in the zone. Its economic volume alone equals the combined total of the other 13 zones.

The platform was co-funded by the Shanghai municipal government and Shanghai's Pudong district government at a total cost of 500 million yuan.

The 38-story building includes a conference center, an exhibition center, a business service center and an audio-visual center.

The facility offers convenient access to a developed traffic network: Subway line 6 lies right in front of the platform and it takes only 30 minutes to drive to the People's Square, the center of Shanghai, It is also 40 minutes by car to either of the city's two airports and is about 25 minutes by subway to the Shanghai 2010 Expo park in Pudong.

The platform will increase in size by the end of 2009 when construction is completed on a 115-m-tall facility with a total floor space of 36,000 sq m.

Platform for trade

As China encourages the cultural services - including movies, TV programming, animation and property rights - to go global, the platform in Shanghai serves as a one-stop site for imports and exports, a gathering place for foreign and domestic cultural service enterprises, and a testing ground for implementation of cultural trade policies and an exhibition venue for cultural products, as well as a training center for industry professionals.

"Through communication with foreigners, we realize the urgency of redefining and promoting our own cultural products in order to make people in other nations understand us easier," said Ren Yibiao, chairman and general manager with Shanghai Oriental Huiwen International Cultural Service Trading Co Ltd, the operating company of the platform.

Ren said after the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games giving wide exposure to Chinese culture, the cultural service platform will provide more opportunities for the world to understand China better through movies, music, dramas, shows and forms.

Although Shanghai's high-end office rental is already $2 or $3 a day per sq m, the cultural service trade center offers culture-related companies a leasing price much lower, said Ren.

More firms moving in

Currently, a dozen cultural companies have signed rental contracts with the center, and a total of 200 members are expected to move in by the end of 2009, including performing arts companies, TV and movie production firms, publishing houses, cartoon and animation producers and others. It can accommodate between 2,000 and 5,000 people.

And cultural-related companies continue to show strong interest. Four branch companies under the Xinhua Media have already settled in the building, according to Ren.

Ren said companies in the platform can enjoy a package of favorable treatment offered by the Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone.

For example, Waigaoqiao is a bonded area "inside the border yet outside customs", which means goods made in China will not be treated as domestic products, while products made overseas will not be levied tariffs as they are considered still outside the country.

Registered companies in the free trade zone will not be charged tariffs for importing equipment for their own use. The tariff exemption will reduce the purchase price as much as 30 percent, significantly lowering startup and hardware costs.

Opportunities

As a growing number of companies are feeling the squeeze from the global economic slowdown, Ren said that might provide new opportunities for the platform.

"We see almost all industries have taken a hit from the global turmoil, but the cultural service industry is an exception, as shown during the 1930s when the big depression hit the United States and the globe," said Ren.

Ren pointed out that Hollywood had its most prosperous era during that time as people went to the movies for relief from the realities of the day.

Similarly, the cartoon industry in Japan developed greatly during the 1970s when the country experienced inflation and economic problems, said Ren.

"We see the financial crisis offers challenge and opportunities. The key to success for the platform is to develop cultural services and products that meet market trends, help people overcome their woes from the economic crisis, and become optimistic towards life and work," he said.

The platform has a full schedule for next year, with a high-profile music forum after the Chinese New Year. In March, the platform will organize a delegation to attend the 2009 FILMART in Hong Kong, and in July it will take part in an entertainment festival in the United States. Other activities include the Frankfurt Book Fair and the China Cultural Industry Fair in Shenzhen.

"This is a fresh attempt to explore how culture can be linked with business and make the most economic gains of the two industries. We hope our success will inspire more international cultural service trade platforms to appear in China in the future," Ren said.

Source: China Daily



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