The Bussiness Confidence Survey 2019/20 published by the German Chamber of Commerce in China, in cooperation with KPMG in Germany, finds that almost a quarter of German companies operating in China are preparing to relocate production facilities.
The survey was conducted from late July through mid-September and had 526 member companies out of 2300 respond. Out of the 526 member companies, 23% of the respondents said their factories will be transferred out of China or are contemplating the move.
Among the German companies leaving or actively planning to leave China, about 71% blame increasing labor costs; 33% cited unfavorable policy environment; 25% said the US-China trade war, and 22% said market access barriers.
Of the respondents who've resorted to relocation, 52% have chosen Southeast Asia, 25% India, 19% Central/Eastern Europe, and 17% Western Europe. Only 5% of respondents said they were going to move operations to the US, contrary to President Trump's claim that companies exiting China will be rushing to the US.
Respondents said the US-China trade war had created a toxic and "gloomy" business outlook that has contributed to the global synchronized slowdown.
About 83% of German companies said the trade war has directly or indirectly affected their operations. "Business expectations have dropped to their lowest level in years with only 27% of surveyed German companies expecting to reach or exceed their business targets in 2019," the survey warned.
Jens Hildebrandt, Executive Director of the German Chamber of Commerce in China, said: "2020 is likely to be characterized by uncertainty, stemming from an unresolved US-China trade dispute related with a decelerating Chinese and global economy."
German firms also said market access barriers and regulatory hurdles stunted their growth in China, with 66% of firms saying they've encountered either direct or indirect market access restrictions.
The key finding in the report is that the business environment in China remains downbeat into 2020. The disruption of complex supply chains in China means the global economy will likely not bottom in early 2020 as equity markets have already priced in.