British businesses hail PM's trade mission to China as "a success"

09:31, November 12, 2010      

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British businesses and experts have hailed Prime Minister David Cameron's two-day visit to China as "a success."

Dr. Wang Zhengxu, senior research fellow at Nottingham University's China Policy Institute and its acting director, told Xinhua Wednesday he believed Cameron's visit had been a success and would pay dividends for both China and Britain.

Dr. Wang said, "In the last few days, the delegation has been able to secure quite a few big contracts worth millions or even billions of pounds."

He said the two countries were quite eager to push bilateral trade to a higher level.

Prospects for future bilateral trade were good as a result of the trip, Dr. Wang said. "The two countries have complimentary business sectors, Britain has some very strong sectors that China can import from, and China has low-cost manufacturing sectors that can supplement the British economy."

"There is plenty of goodwill this time, from the two sides, and Cameron's trip to China does give a strong foundation for future bilateral trade development," he said.

There would be a lasting effect from the Cameron mission. "For this kind of bilateral relations, we can probably look forward to two years of materialization into real economic cooperation on trade," Dr. Wang said.

However, the overall success of the mission would also be affected by outside factors, not least of which was the G20 summit in Seoul, which Cameron was set to attend immediately after his China visit.

Dr. Wang said the influence of the G20 would be felt in its dealings with "financial problems around assets and liquidity from the United States, and the stability of the exchange rate regime."

In terms of goods trade and manufacturing, and in terms of Britain's retail services penetrating Chinese markets, and in terms of education exports to China, the prospects were fine over the coming two years, Dr. Wang said.

Dr. Damian Tobin of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London told Xinhua the success of Cameron's visit to China was likely to be decided far from the Great Hall in Beijing.

"It is more likely to be decided by the contributions that British businesses can make to China's future development," he said, adding "This will require British firms to identify specific areas where they can make contributions to China's objective of raising per capita incomes, increasing productivity and achieving technology upgrading, particularly in rural areas."

Dr. Tobin said British businesses' success in China would also depend on the extent to which they could comply with changing regulations on labor conditions and the environment.

"Efforts to achieve the latter may prove far more effective than lectures on the UK's system of parliamentary accountability," he said.

If Britain wants to attract inward Chinese investment then success could hinge on more straightforward issues such as more consistent visa and fees treatment for Chinese students who wish to study at British universities.

Dr. Tobin said that Cameron's claim that he would fight protectionism was likely to go down well with the Chinese leadership as "one of their great concerns following the global financial crisis is the return of protectionism to their major export markets."

One of the big contracts signed with British companies was order with aero-engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce worth 1.2 billion U.S. dollars at list prices from China Eastern Airlines for Trent 700 engines to power 16 Airbus A330 aircraft.

Steve Miller, Rolls-Royce Vice President of Customer Business, said: "We are delighted that China Eastern continues to put its trust in our leading-edge Trent technology underpinned by a TotalCare support package that offers operational and performance benefits. We also look forward to assisting China Eastern in its efforts to reduce its environmental impact."

The mission is likely to benefit not only British exports, but also Chinese investment in Britain.

A spokeswoman for the government body for promoting British exports and inward investment, UKTI, said Britain was "viewed as an attractive investment destination for Chinese companies, with access to the EU market, research and development capabilities, and a world-class business environment."

An example of a successful Chinese investment in Britain is Chongqing Chang'an Automobile Corporation Ltd, the second largest automobile manufacturer in China, which has set up its British development and research facility in the East Midlands at Nottingham Science Park.

The project will create 200 jobs by 2013. Fifteen staff are already engaged and the firm is announcing plans to recruit a further 25 by the end of this year.

Chang'an vice-president Zhu Huarong said: "Britain is a leader within Europe for the automotive industry, especially in power train research and development. Chang'an selected Nottingham Science Park because of the facilities it offers and the existing talented workforce. UKTI played a very active role in the preparation and selection of the location of our research center."



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