Britain's doors 'wide open' to Chinese investment: minister George Osborne

UK finance chief George Osborne, leading a delegation of government and business leaders, looks to 'a big step forward' in economic ties

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 October, 2013, 2:54am

Britain's doors were wide open to companies from China and relaxed foreign ownership rules made it the most obvious destination for Chinese investment, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said yesterday.

"I don't think you will find anywhere in the western world a country more open to Chinese investment [than Britain]," Osborne said at a CEO roundtable meeting ahead of the fifth China-UK economic and financial dialogue starting today.

Vice-Premier Ma Kai said economic co-operation between China and Britain had developed quickly after the global financial crisis in 2008.

"Infrastructure, financial and information technology are the major areas of China-UK co-operation," Ma said.

A number of companies such as HSBC and Standard Chartered had entered China in its early days of opening up, he said.

Chinese companies such as telecommunications equipment maker Huawei Technologies and ZTE had a presence in Britain, he added.

Ding Xuedong, the chairman of sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China's chairman, Jiang Jianqing, and China Construction Bank's chairman, Wang Hongzhang, attended the roundtable.

CIC, created to manage part of the nation's US$3.5 trillion foreign currency reserves, bought an 8.7 per cent stake in British utility Thames Water last year and invested £450 million (HK$5.6 billion) in London's Heathrow Airport.

Last year, China's overseas direct investment increased 17.6 per cent to a record US$87.8 billion, making it one of the world's top three investors for the first time.

Osborne said the fifth China-UK economic and financial dialogue had "the potential to mark an important step forward, a big step forward in the British and Chinese relationship".

British media reports said Osborne's visit showed the government's determination to reset relations with China, which were unofficially downgraded after Prime Minister David Cameron met the Dalai Lama last year.

Osborne said the financial dialogue today would be a good opportunity to encourage British investment in China and Chinese investment in Britain. "I hope that over the next 24 hours, we can strengthen economic relationship with China," he said.

Osborne arrived in China on Sunday for a five-day visit, leading a delegation that included Bank of England deputy governor Charlie Bean, London mayor Boris Johnson and representatives of British technology companies. He will travel to Shenzhen to visit Chinese technology firms later this week.

Chinese companies are investing in Britain. Beijing Construction Engineering Group formed a venture with Manchester Airports Group and others to build an £800 million international business district at Manchester Airport. The deal is the first of a series that are expected to be announced during the visit and one of Britain's biggest since last year's London Olympics.

Chinese developer Advanced Business Park agreed in May to invest in a £1 billion project that will transform east London's Royal Albert Dock into an Asia business port.