UK hoping to sign post-Brexit deals worth US$1.3bn with China as officials head to Beijing

British government keen to develop markets around the world after the UK voted to leave the European Union

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 December, 2017, 12:41pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 December, 2017, 11:27pm

Britain hopes to seal a billion pounds (US$1.34 billion) worth of trade and investment agreements with China during a weekend visit by finance minister Philip Hammond, the Bank of England chief Mark Carney and senior executives.

The Beijing visit is the latest instalment in long-running economic talks between the two states, but it has taken on new importance for Britain as it looks to reinvent itself as a global trading nation after leaving the European Union in 2019.

“We are committed to working with our partners to build a truly global Britain and our relationship with China is strong, growing and delivering benefits for both countries,” Hammond said in a statement released by his office ahead of the trip.

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The focus on a “Golden Era” of relations, touted loudly by both sides in 2015 when former prime minister David Cameron hosted a state visit by President Xi Jinping, has cooled under Cameron’s successor Theresa May.

She caused a diplomatic spat last year by unexpectedly deciding to delay approval of a partly Chinese-funded nuclear power project. She later granted it, but not before drawing criticism from Beijing.

Nevertheless, the government said on Friday it wanted to begin a new phase. Hammond will meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Vice-Premier Ma Kai and other officials.

Business minister Greg Clarke will also travel to Beijing along with a delegation of executives including London Stock Exchange chief executive Nikhil Rathi and representatives from major financial firms such as BlackRock, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank.

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Talks are expected to focus on a more integrated approach to financial services, new industrial partnerships and economic reform.

Previous rounds of discussions have looked at how to develop London as an offshore hub for trading China’s currency and closer integration of the two countries’ stock markets.

Clark will hold energy-specific talks focused on clean and renewable power generation.