According to the company, local staff, to provide “local knowledge”, will man the Shanghai office.

The merchanting group said the new office would complement its strategy to simplify its face-to-market by merging the Robert Horne, Howard Smith and Paper Co brands under the Paperlinx banner.

However, the biggest impact could be a renewed focus on importing Asian paper into the EU.

According to Paperlinx executive director Andrew Price the company already sources “significant volumes” of products for its Australia, New Zealand and Asia operations from China. Something he said Paperlinx was looking to replicate in Europe.

“Opening an office in Shanghai gives us the opportunity to leverage our procurement power globally; this will further enhance the group’s supply chain efficiency and better fits with a group-wide commitment to streamline processes, as well as eliminate both cost and inventory duplication,” he added.

Price stressed that before paper grades and other products, such as those aimed at industrial packaging and sign and display applications, are imported to the EU, the manufacturers would have to meet a number of criteria, including corporate, social and environmental responsibility.

“As the largest independent paper merchant in the world, in as much as we’re not tied to any one paper manufacturer, we’ve already been approached by a number of mills in Asia that want to increase their footprint in Europe. But from a quality perspective it’s important to have a local office that can verify quality and negotiate,” said Price.

“It might be a while until we have Asian paper products here in Europe though, because we want to be sure we choose the right local partners.”

He also said that the sales office would also be used to help Paperlinx customers to source products in China, further bolstering its recently launched ‘web stores’ initiative.

“We’ve got these web stores that offer 500 products, now what we can do is open up sourcing in China. So, if a printer has a customer that needs promotional products for example, then we can now offer those though the printers web stores.”

According to this week’s poll, more than two-thirds of printers are happy to use paper grades sourced from outside the EU. Have your say in our poll on the right.