By Xinhua writers Wang Huihui, Liang Xizhi
LONDON, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) — The China-UK relationship in the golden era will receive a shot in the arm as the upcoming China International Import Expo (CIIE) provides a unique opportunity to further strengthen British cooperation with China.
Richard Burn, the British trade commissioner for China, told Xinhua in an interview that as Country of Honor, Britain will send a high-level delegation to attend the week-long event, which will see the presence of Prince Andrew, Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and other officials and business leaders.
“We are delighted the UK is one of the Countries of Honor at the CIIE. We recognize this is a very important event for China as it demonstrates its commitment to free trade, to open markets and buying more imports from overseas countries. It will give Chinese consumers better range and better quality products,” he said.
Britain will open a national pavilion that focuses on innovation and features world-leading companies in healthcare and life sciences, financial and professional services, education, creative industries, automotive, AI, big data, among others.
A total of 30 British companies from different sectors, including finance, retail, healthcare, culture, education and high-end manufacturing, will participate in the business exhibition, scheduled for Nov. 5-10.
“Britain is very strong in many areas where China is looking to buy products. We have the national pavilion … so the main focus of the national pavilion will be Britain’s capability in innovation,” Burn said.
The trade commissioner said Britain is looking forward to showing their products and services, building stronger relationships and identifying more Chinese buyers for their products.
The China-UK “Golden Era” is now promising wider and stronger cooperation that benefits both sides after the visits of British Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to China earlier this year.
A few facts showcase the close cooperation between the two countries: Britain is the first Western country to issue RMB sovereign bonds and the first major Western country to apply for full membership in the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
The landmark Hinkley Point C nuclear power station project, with one third of investment from a Chinese company, has been described by local media as “Britain’s first new nuclear power station in a generation.”
According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, bilateral trade volume between China and Britain reached 79.03 billion U.S. dollars in 2017, with China’s imports from Britain up 19.4 percent year on year.
Meanwhile, more than 500 Chinese enterprises have set up their offices in Britain, with a total of 21.8 billion U.S. dollars invested in projects ranging from traditional areas like trade, finance and telecommunications to such emerging areas as new energy, high-end manufacturing, infrastructure and research centers.
“China is a very important market for UK. Prime Minister May came to China in January, and she and (Chinese) President Xi reaffirmed their commitment to building on the ‘Golden Era’ and launching the second phase of the ‘Golden Era.’ More and more companies are interested in taking the opportunity to export to China,” said Burn.
Apart from big multinational companies like HSBC and Standard Chartered that have achieved success in China for years, emerging British companies will also seek opportunities during the expo.
As China’s first-ever import expo, the CIIE has a particular appeal for multinational companies to explore the huge Chinese market further, drawn by a buying power that has exploded in the 40 years since the country’s reform and opening-up.
The event, which provides a platform for Chinese businesses, investors and consumers to connect with companies from Britain and around the world, has drawn British companies including Jaguar Land Rover, British Airways, Astra Zeneca, Standard Chartered Bank, HSBC and DeLonghi Kenwood, according to the British Embassy in Beijing.
China’s Ministry of Commerce forecast in November 2017 that China would import more than 10 trillion U.S. dollars’ worth of goods and services in the next five years.
“This development comes as China bids farewell to growth based on exports and state-led investments, and is increasingly encouraging its 1.4 billion people to consume. The old model of ‘Made in China’ goods heading to markets around the world is gradually shifting to one where China is itself becoming a destination for products made elsewhere,” said David Liao, president and CEO of HSBC China.
“The CIIE is a great opportunity for companies to enter the Chinese market,” said John Edwards, British consul-general in Shanghai. “Doing business is a long process. Before you do business in China, you have to understand China.”
He added that the CIIE will provide the newcomers with the opportunity to understand the Chinese market and consumers and find Chinese business partners.
“This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up, which created China’s economic miracle. The CIIE comes at a very important point as China enters the next period of reform and opening-up,” Edwards said. “The CIIE is not a one-off but sustained opening-up. It’s not a normal standard trade fair but a very special symbol of China’s opening-up.”