Barcelona and Shanghai tighten institutional and economic relations

In celebration of 23 years of twinning this year, the two cities met in Barcelona to share common goals such as being economic drivers within their respective communities, cities that are open to international trade and also commercial exchange.

15/05/2024 - 11:44 h

Last Friday, Jordi Valls, Deputy Mayor for Economic Promotion, met with Hua Yuan, his counterpart in the municipal government of Shanghai, at the Palau de Pedralbes. Barcelona and Shanghai are celebrating 23 years of institutional relations dating back to 1988, when a memorandum was signed by Pasqual Maragall and Zhu Rongji, who were the cities’ mayors at the time.

The twinning agreement was officially signed by mayor Joan Clos and deputy mayor Zhou Muyao in 2001. Since then, both cities have become internationally renowned centres of creativity, design and talent attraction with a widely recognised global city brand.

Working to reinstate the Barcelona-Shanghai direct link

The two deputy mayors met to share common goals and address matters such as the reinstatement of direct flights between Barcelona and Shanghai. The route, which was operated by Air China, was suspended during the pandemic, and is yet to be re-established – this would be key in providing relations between the two cities with a definitive boost. This reinstatement is being promoted by the City Council through the Barcelona Air Route Development Committee (CDRA).

The two cities have agreed to work on smart cities, digitalisation and the green transformation. Fostering investment in both directions is a high-priority goal in Barcelona-Shanghai relations, and the cities’ business ecosystems are open to including new international start-ups and scale-ups.

Barcelona, a welcoming city for Chinese companies

Following the deputy mayors’ meeting, Jordi Valls took part in “Invest in Shanghai, Share the Future”, an event for economic promotion abroad. The conference, which was organised by the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce and aimed at the Catalan business sector, was held at the Palau de Pedralbes, and was attended by around 200 people.

Valls noted that Barcelona has an outward-looking economy with strong economic relations with Asia, particularly China. The China Desk is a practical tool designed to facilitate relations between local institutions and Chinese companies, and provides business landing and talent landing services, giving advice to international companies wishing to open offices in Barcelona.

One of the recipients of these services is the Chinese multinational Wanhua, one of the world’s leading companies in the chemical industry, which employs over 29,000 workers worldwide and has ten production factories. Wanhua has recently opened a new innovation centre in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, creating 30 new jobs. The firm has been supported by Barcelona City Council’s International Economic Promotion Area, as well as by Barcelona Activa’s business landing services in its efforts to recruit local talent.

During the event, Valls called for technology and Industry 4.0 companies from Shanghai to open offices in Barcelona, a gateway to the European market. There are currently over 200 subsidiaries of Chinese companies in Catalonia, and China is already the third non-European country with the most subsidiaries in the region.