Chinese vice premier's visit to Britain hailed a business success

13:16, January 15, 2011      

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The British business sector was pleased at the successful visit this week of Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang which concluded on Wednesday.

During the four-day visit, Li signed business agreements with an estimated value of more than 4 billion U.S. dollars with the British government.

"China is vital to the UK economy. China is now the world's largest goods exporter and the UK's largest goods export market outside the U.S. and EU. We are keen to realize the immense potential for deepening and broadening areas of commercial cooperation," said British Minister of State for Trade and Investment Lord Green during the visit.

The British coalition government was faced with a near-record public spending deficit of 149 billion pounds (about 236.5 billion dollars) and has chosen to tackle it immediately with the deepest set of cuts to public spending since the Second World War.

In such an economic climate, Vice Premier Li's visit to Britain brought welcome contracts but it also brought wider agreements that will bear fruit over a longer period, and that has been hailed as a great success.

In an interview with Xinhua after Li's visit, Andy Scott, director international of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), hailed the visit's success, the achievements of the deal itself, and the longer-term prospects which were very positive.

Commenting on the visit, and on the wider China-British relationship, he said, "in the long-term prospects are very positive. They are positive on the political front, they are positive on the business front. And from a political point of view I think it is very telling that this government here in the UK ... has made international trade investment one of the top priorities for Prime Minister David Cameron and right across his Cabinet."

Scott said that Cameron's visit to China last November, when he headed the largest trade delegation from Britain to China and the largest ministerial delegation, was a sign of Britain's keenness to do business with China. Scott said he believed there were more ministerial visits planned.

"That's all extremely positive and I think it demonstrates that at a political level as well as at a business level, China is seen strategically as being a crucially important partner for the UK, and I think this visit -- this very successful visit this week -- will only further help to reinforce that relationship," he added.

The headline-grabbing part of Li's visit, apart from the loan of the pandas, was the largest single deal announced this week, allowing the import of 40,000 Jaguar Landrover vehicles into the Chinese market.

Scott hailed this as demonstrating "the continuing strengths and this continuing strengthening" of the Sino-British relationship.

The monetary value of deals announced was important, but Scott stressed the importance of framework deals which were agreed upon during Li's visit.

"They weren't necessarily contracts that were being signed there and then, yesterday or today. They were setting the framework and they will themselves be providing further opportunities to develop on those frameworks," he said.

In addition, he stressed "professional services, the retail sector, design, the creative area, and the whole engineering consultancy arena" where Britain has goods which China wants in its infrastructure development.

Scott particularly welcomed Chinese investment into Britain, and hoped that it would continue the momentum achieved recently.

"We are increasingly seeing China now investing directly in UK companies and that we see as being very positive," he said.

That was now "a further example of where the whole relationship with China is changing; it is not just about physical goods, it is about investment, it is about capital coming into the UK," he added.

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