(Yicai Global) Feb. 5 -- British Prime Minister Teresa May, accompanied by a large business delegation, visited China January 31- February 2. She met with China's President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. Her visit was this year's second visit by a head of government of a major western country following French President Emmanuel Macron's state visit last month.
China and Britain agreed to embrace a "golden era" in bilateral relations during President Xi Jinping's visit to Britain in October 2015. The two sides signed 59 trade and investment agreements at that time with a total amount of more than CNY400 billion (USD63.4 billion). The "golden era" of ties between the two nations opened during President Xi Jinping's visit to Britain in 2015 is of great significance to the in-depth development of bilateral relations, said Barbara Woodward, the British ambassador to Beijing, recently. Prime Minister Theresa May's visit to China is the continuation of the cooperation between the two nations and is attached much importance as it is expected to inject new impetus for the promotion and upgrading of the "golden era" of the bilateral ties.
Official data show that bilateral trade between China and Britain last year reached USD79.03 billion, up 6.2 percent annually, of which, imports grew 19.4 percent and exports increased 1.8 percent. Data from the UK's Department for International Trade show that the total trade in goods and services between Britain and China in 2016 reached GBP59.1 billion, up 8.9 percent over 2015. Given the slowdown in global economy and trade growth, bilateral trade between China and Britain has maintained strong growth momentum. This shows the scope of deep and steady economic and trade relations between the two countries.
"China-UK trade and economic cooperation has reached a new level last year. We believe the economic and trade cooperation between China and Britain will develop in a larger scope and at a higher level," said Jin Xu, minister counselor of the economic and commercial office at the Chinese embassy in London.
"China as a world leading economy and the UK's fifth largest trading partner is an important market for British companies as we look to build independent trading relationships across the world," said British international trade secretary Liam Fox who visited China at the start of this year ahead of his second visit with PM May.
"As an international economic department, we want 2018 to be the year of exporting with businesses across the UK seizing the opportunities that the world provides. That's why we're determined to make exporting even easier, and we have announced we're making up to £25 billion of funding available for UK exporters and buyers of UK goods and services along the Belt and Road Initiative so that no viable export fails for a lack of funding," he added.
President Xi Jinping said during a session of the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee on January 31 that China should make efforts to develop an open economy, enhance international competitiveness of the modern economic system, make better use of global resources and markets and continue to actively promote international exchange and cooperation under the framework of Belt and Road Initiative.
In November this year, China will host the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai, a major move to promote a new round of high-level opening to the outside world. Representative companies from more than 100 countries and regions and over 150,000 buyers will participate in this global trade event. There is no doubt that 2018 will be a new starting point for China's opening up to the outside world and the deepening of bilateral economic and trade cooperation between China and Britain.
President Xi Jinping stressed during his meeting with British Prime Minister Teresa May that common prosperity, peace, development and win-win cooperation have been the mainstream of the times with the development of a multipolar world, economic globalization and cultural diversity. The two nations need to conform to the trend of the times, respond to the needs of their respective development stage and bilateral cooperation, and add new meaning into the bilateral ties so as to forge an enhanced version of the "golden era."
Prime Minister Theresa May said at the inaugural meeting of the China-UK entrepreneurs' council that Britain will remain open after leaving the European Union and that Britain and China are expected to establish more extensive economic and trade relations to open up new era of cooperation and partnership. We look forward to jointly building "global Britain" and "global China" for the benefit of both countries and the peoples of the world.
As the world's second-largest economy, China has a huge potential market for British exporters. Total retail sales of consumer goods in China have equaled to that of the US last year and China will import more than USD10 trillion worth of goods and services in the next five years. China has tremendous trade opportunities and we want to help British businesses make the most of this. This is why I will bring a large business delegation together. This delegation covers a wide range of industries, representing all aspects of the United Kingdom and areas of expertise in the UK. My visit this time will further promote the "golden era" of UK-China relations, said Theresa May before leaving for China.
The UK delegation included representatives of more than 40 companies, universities and trade associations, including well-known companies and universities such as HSBC, British Petroleum, Standard Chartered Bank, Aston Martin, AstraZeneca, Inmarsat and the Manchester University. The mature services they represent, such as finance, management, consulting and education, as well as the world-renowned quality products in energy, aviation, medicine, automobile and telecommunications industries, are what Chinese enterprises need and learn from during the process of transformation and upgrading and expansion with mergers and acquisitions.
At the same time, China is devoting extensively to establishing a multilateral free trade system and promoting free trade in the region by adjusting its tariff structure and drastically reducing its tariffs, which is a tremendous opportunity for the United Kingdom. After Britain exited the EU, China is one of the countries that UK wished to sign a free trade agreement, Sky News reported. Compared with the fact that the Anglo-American trade relations are affected by Trump's "America First" strategy and trade protectionism, China's move to support global free trade and its positive attitude in the FTA negotiations undoubtedly cast better optimism and expectation for a China-UK free trade agreement and stable trade ties.
China International Import Expo will become an important platform for strengthening China-Britain bilateral economic and trade cooperation. A possible FTA will also promote continuous expansion and deepening of the fields and depth of bilateral economic and trade cooperation. The two complement each other and work together to promote the development of a global multilateral economic and trade system, promote construction of a mutually beneficial global value chain and inject more vitality to the world's economic stability and sustainable development.