Chinese officials have indicated that they are open to launching trade negotiations with Britain following its decision to leave the European Union (EU) – ironically in part due to Chinese frustration with the EU.
During the Brexit referendum campaign Remain campaigners repeatedly warned that Britain would become “isolated” if she voted to leave the EU; the French finance minister Emmanuel Macron even went so far as to predict that Britain would have the “significance of Guernsey” if she dared exit the bloc.
But the optimism of Leave campaigners, who argued that, to the contrary, Britain would be free to make deals more rapidly with global players such as China, appears to have been well-founded, as countries lined up to engage in trade talks with British officials in the days following the vote.
Speaking to the state broadcaster China Daily, Xing Houyuan, an official in the state-backed Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, has admitted that talks between the EU and China are becoming bogged down, leaving Chinese officials frustrated.
The “situation in Western Europe will push China and the UK to make a trade treaty,” the publication said, according to The Telegraph.
Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang was similarly positive about the prospect of Chinese investment in the UK, saying: “The global investment environment will be more transparent and create more chances in different fields for new investment.
“Therefore, Chinese companies’ outbound direct investment will remain positive and stable.”
China’s government is currently looking to export $1 trillion of services per year, and has set targets for the country’s firms to invest $720bn overseas over the next four years.
Britain currently has no specialist trade negotiators, having been banned from brokering her own trade deals for the last 40 years, but the issue is not thought insurmountable. The New Zealand government has already offered to loan its top trade negotiators to the British civil service, while Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has confirmed that the government will be looking to hire foreign experts.
“If we can find Australians, Americans who have got high-level skills in trade negotiation, let’s recruit them as well,” he said.
British trade minister and former Waitrose boss Lord Price is therefore upbeat about the prospects of an Anglo-Chinese deal.
“I’m optimistic about the future: particularly in helping create a second Elizabethan Golden Age. The first Golden Age was based on peace, prosperity, new trading markets and a flourishing of the arts,” he told the British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, adding that he is pushing for “a continued close trading relationship with Europe”.
“There’s also a prospect for striking new deals with Canada, New Zealand and Australia which could form the beginning of a Commonwealth trading pact.”
“And to the opportunities in the East, where for centuries British merchants have traded with China for tea, white gold and porcelain, as well as with Japan, South Korea and other Asian nations,” said Lord Price.