Piano firms expect hit after Czech senate speaker's Taiwan visit

By Yin Yeping Source: Global Times Published: 2020/9/7 19:38:40

Czech Senate Speaker Milos Vystrcil waves upon his arrival at Taiwan's Taoyuan International Airport. Photo: AFP

Czech businesses will be hurt by deteriorating relations between China and the Czech Republic due to the provocation of the Czech senate speaker's visit to China's Taiwan in August. Experts said that the cancelation of piano orders by Chinese importers is a natural business response that may signal a broader impact.

The remarks came after a Chinese piano trader canceled an order valued at $23.8 million from leading Czech piano producer Petrof amid bilateral tensions triggered by Czech senate speaker Milos Vystrcil's Taiwan visit, a blatant move that sparked a nationwide outcry in China, which is the second-largest export destination for Czech pianos.

A manager of Fuda Music, a Beijing-based piano company and an official partner of Petrof, told the Global Times on Sunday that it temporarily suspended new orders to the Czech supplier in early September in light of the huge impact of the Czech official's visit.

"We talked to Petrof about this and it fully understands our decision," the manager of Fuda Music surnamed Li said, and the decision to suspend the orders was the company's own.

Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Andrej Babis said on Sunday that he would fight to prevent fallout for Czech companies, Reuters reported.

A source at the China Musical Instrument Association, which is authorized by China's civil affairs ministry, told the Global Times that musical instruments are classified as light industrial products, which have elements of both manufacturing and culture. 

If political factors influence bilateral cultural cooperation and exchange, then trade involving musical instruments may also be affected, he said, and some high-end Czech piano brands may not be approved for use in cultural activities.

It may take time to see the fallout, but there could be an impact on Czech-produced goods, including pianos, insiders said.

Petrof is one of the largest piano makers in Europe, with production capacity of more than 2, 000 instruments a year, according to Li, who is one of the two Petrof importers in China.

Li has done business with Petrof for more than a decade and has imported hundreds of fine pianos from the company every year, Li said. He decided to temporarily suspend orders in consideration of public sentiment and market responses

"Czech senate speaker's action will have an impact on many great Czech companies and Chinese partners like us," Li said.

Petrof had not responded to a request for comment by the Global Times as of press time.

Data that the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Light Industrial Products and Arts-Crafts sent to the Global Times on Monday showed that imports of pianos from the Czech Republic fell 55.8 percent from January to July to $1.33 million. Logistics disruptions caused by the pandemic were among the reasons, experts said.

China is the second-largest export market for Czech pianos - including automatic pianos, harpsichords and other keyboard stringed instruments - which took a share of 20 percent in 2019, after Germany's 23 percent, the UN Comtrade Database showed.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a regular press conference on Thursday that the one-China policy is an important political basis of the development of China-Czech diplomatic ties.

"We hope the Czech side can have a clear understanding of the damage he has caused to bilateral relations, and immediately take measures to eliminate the negative impact," said Hua.

Czech President Milos Zeman said on Sunday that he has no understanding for the Czech senate speaker's trip to Taiwan and called his behavior "boyish provocation," according to Xinhua News Agency.

Posted in: COMPANIES

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