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No shortage of ideas at city's business forum

(Shanghai Daily)

09:24, October 31, 2011

Shanghai--From developing an e-government to giving more support to small businesses with high growth potential, top leaders of global companies offered a bundle of advice yesterday for the Shanghai mayor to study in the next twelve months.

Other ideas ranged from speeding up construction of an international board to strengthening connection with other cities to guaranteeing food safety.

Yesterday, members of the International Business Leaders' Advisory Council gathered in the World Expo Center in Shanghai and shared their insights with Mayor Han Zheng under a theme "bolstering the market system."

"Shanghai is going to play a key role when Asia sets on the path to become the world's biggest trading bloc," said Carlos Gutierrez, former secretary of the United States Department of Commerce. "It is an enormous opportunity for Shanghai."

Laurent Beaudoin, chairman of Bombardier Inc, said Shanghai is well-positioned against peers like Hong Kong and Singapore, thanks to the central government's ambitious plan to transform Shanghai into a global financial, shipping, trade and economic hub by 2020.

To sharpen Shanghai's competitiveness, Beaudoin suggested the city government beef up efforts to improve the language skills among residents, lower corporate taxes, keep the talent pipeline full, reduce hurdles for mobility and provide executive training that can integrate management techniques from both the West and the East.

Severin Schwan, chief executive officer of Roche Group, expressed appreciation for Shanghai's establishment of a modern public health-care system, and expected closer partnership with the government to make specialized but costly medicine affordable in the city.

Topics at the meeting covered a wide array, including food safety.

"Bolstering a market system - promoting cross-border operation by multinationals in a modern, open, competitive and well-regulated market system - can help address systematic problems with food security and food safety," said Paul J. Fribourg, chairman and chief executive officer of Continental Co.

There were also complaints at the one-day meeting.

Michael Diekmann, chairman of the board of management of Allianz SE, urged more opening-up for foreign insurers.

"Limited access to the insurance markets in Shanghai and other Chinese provinces remains the biggest single reason why creating a regional hub in Shanghai is currently not very attractive," Diekmann said.

The suggestions are expected to guide Shanghai's development until the next meeting of IBLAC a year from now.

The IBLAC was initiated in 1989 by Zhu Rongji, then Shanghai mayor who later became Chinese premier. He envisioned it as a platform for the world's top business leaders to provide strategic advice on the city's development.

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