BRITAIN'S Hong Kong minister Alastair Goodlad yesterday called for greater Sino-British economic co-operation.
He was responding to remarks by Vice-Premier Qian Qichen that China wanted ''comprehensive co-operation'' - a hint that the political relationship could have an impact on trade and the economy.
The reception given to Mr Goodlad by the Guangdong provincial Government followed that accorded him in Beijing by being low-key.
It is understood that a scheduled meeting between Mr Goodlad and a vice-governor was replaced by a meeting with a trade official. Another vice-governor, Zhong Zhiquan, hosted a dinner for Mr Goodlad last night.
Mr Goodlad will arrive in the territory this morning for a stop-over, during which he will be grilled by legislators on the cold reception he received.
A meeting with senior Chinese official Lu Ping was cancelled at the last minute. Mr Goodlad said he was ''happy with the reception''.
Governor Chris Patten said he would discuss Sino-British relations with Mr Goodlad, Foreign Office minister with special responsibility for Hong Kong. Mr Patten said the British and Chinese governments were keen to co-operate and Sino-British meetings were essential in order to narrow areas of disagreement.
Mr Goodlad said trade between the two sides was better than before, with a 72 per cent increase in export last year and a 38 per cent growth in the first four months.
Meeting vice-director of Guangdong Foreign Trade and Economic Commission, Wu Mingguang, Mr Goodlad expressed optimism about British trade and investment there.
His positive attitude was shared by Ken Wong, Guangzhou officer manager of the China-Britain Trade Group - a British trade promoting organisation in the province.
He said trade activities could be boosted further after Mr Goodlad's visit. ''It's a great leap forward in terms of diplomatic exchange between the two sides which was absent in the previous period.'' It could pave the way for the success of a 100-strong business delegation in late September, which will be the largest one since 1992, Mr Wong said.