FOREIGN freight forwarders doing business in China are believed to be facing uncollected debts running into millions of dollars, according to Baltrans Holdings' chairman and chief executive Anthony Lau Siu-wing. He said one of the ways to overcome this problem was by refusing to collect money on the mainland and concentrating on nominated business, with freight charges payable overseas. 'When we have a shipment from China, the shipper will put our company on the letter of credit or purchase order and the payment is collected by us overseas,' Mr Lau said. 'This move will weed out the weaker competitors because they will not be able to sustain themselves if they have to pay all the airport charges and wait for a longer period to collect their dues.' Baltrans accepts a limited amount of business in which charges are payable in China. Mr Lau said if foreign freight forwarders only accepted business with freight charges payable overseas, the incidence of fixed-charges debt would be reduced. He believed foreign freight forwarders were becoming increasingly cautious regarding this problem. Mr Lau said: 'We do not foresee the Chinese Government will annex its control on licences for freight forwarders.' China intended to control this industry so that its local freight forwarders - like in many of the other Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia - were protected, he said. The air-freight industry slowed late last year and was expected to continue to be slow this year, Mr Lau said. Baltrans handled a large volume of export trade out of Shanghai, he said, adding that the group's business in Beijing and Guangzhou were equally good. Mr Lau said the Shanghai office was being managed by an experienced person from Hong Kong and he was optimistic that more business could be developed this year through better professionalism and knowledge of the business, equivalent to industry standards in the territory. Baltrans was likewise scouting for an experienced person to head its operations in Beijing so that its operations could be expanded further, he said. The group was expected to have reasonable growth from the China operations this year, Mr Lau said. He said the group would increase efforts to assist foreign exporters to increase their exports to China to take advantage of the 15 per cent reduction in import duties on various items. The company also planned to promote the intra-Asian business, he said. 'We expect the intra-Asia business to grow fast in the next 10 to 20 years,' he said. As industrialists in Japan and Korea relocated to Indonesia because of increasing operating costs in their own countries, Baltrans stood to gain more business, he said. Mr Lau said this traffic between Indonesia, Japan and Korea would not have been there if the industrialists did not relocate industries to take advantage of the cheap labour and rental costs. Shipping companies were always interested in going directly to bigger clients and would not require services of freight forwarders, Mr Lau said. Therefore, freight forwarders could survive only by acting for small and medium-sized companies, he said.