In November 2019, a study tour of the German-Chinese Legal Cooperation Programme on “Framework for Trust in the Economy” led a delegation from the Credit Supervision Department of the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), headed by Ms LIU Lin, to Germany. The tour was organised against the background of lacking trust between the Chinese economic actors and problems regarding product quality, which the government wants to address with the so called National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System administered by SAMR.
As a meta-register, the National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System is intended to record and disclose the data available to the administration regarding financial reports, permits, administrative sanctions, etc. The study tour familiarised the delegation with the German approach to the collection of data from economic actors. Central issues were the legal framework for the collection and use of data, legal protection for those affected and the distribution of tasks between the economy and the state.
First, the delegation got to know the strong role played by the economic actors themselves in a discussion at the Verband der Vereine Creditreform e.V. Michael Bretz, Head of Economic Research and member of the Executive Board, together with colleagues, informed about the important role of private credit agencies as service providers in an economy based on the division of labour, and explained the legal framework for their business. At the Federal Office of Justice in Bonn was able to see for themselves that the role of the state in Germany is a primarily complementary one. President Heinz-Josef Friehe received the delegation and, together with his colleagues, had prepared detailed information on the Central Trade and Industry Register in which administrative decisions and fines as well as certain final criminal convictions of tradesmen are recorded.
A meeting and discussion session then took the delegation to the Ludwig Erhard Foundation. On behalf of the Foundation, Berthold Barth and Natalie Furjan explained the importance of mutual trust for the economy and how the instruments of the Soziale Marktwirtschaft (social market economy), essentially provide for it automatically within the legal framework set. The extent to which this actually applies was demonstrated in a discussion at the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. There, Marie Pendzich and Andreas Dlugi described the division of tasks between the state and industries regarding product safety and product recalls. The information focused on the industry’s own responsibility, which is – though complemented by government measures – often self-regulating through voluntary measures without governmental action.
Two meetings in Berlin concluded the tour. First, at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), Thomas Solbach, Head of the Department “Public Procurement, Procurement Review Office, Real Estate Sector” and his desk officer Simon Schwerdtfeger received the Chinese delegation together with Boris Böhme, Head of the Department “Product and Plant Safety”. They explained the functioning and objectives of the new German Competition Register in public procurement as well as highlighted the legal protection extended to those affected. On behalf of Stiftung Warentest, Ute Bränzel explained to the members of the delegation the important role that actors, independent of the state and companies, play in product quality, product safety and consumer confidence. She demonstrated how Stiftung Warentest contributes to making products safer and better through its comparative product tests based on scientific criteria, and how public relations work based on freedom of the press is the cornerstone thereof.
The central aspect in all discussions was how exactly the Chinese government could divide the relevant areas of responsibility in the future. The information received during the trip will find its way into SAMR’s further work. According to the head of the delegation, LIU Lin, the task at hand is no less than finding the right balance along a four-level system of self-responsibility of companies, strengthened associations and economic interest groups, public information and direct state monitoring as the final stage.