Since we ushered in the new millennium, Chinese and British businesses have benefited significantly from sound relations, underpinned by the frequent exchange of high-level visits and comprehensive interactions between our two countries. Bilateral economic cooperation has continued to flourish, with steady growth in trade and investment.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, China-UK trade and investment ties have shown strong resilience. Bilateral trade grew by big margins year-on-year. According to the latest data, China superseded Germany for the first time as Britain’s largest source of imports in the first quarter of 2021. In addition, the scale of two-way investment has maintained its positive momentum. The total number of UK businesses with investment from Chinese companies has increased from 13,000 in 2020 to 15,000 up to now, with total assets reaching as much as 130 billion pounds. Meanwhile, according to a report from the British Chamber of Commerce in China in late 2020, China remains the first choice for British companies to seek investment overseas. These are all positive signs of a strong willingness in the business communities to further consolidate China-UK economic and trade relations.
Looking into the future, China and the UK possess huge potential for cooperation, and the prospects are as promising as ever. On the one hand, China has resilient and sound manufacturing capacities in goods like electromechanical products, textiles, furniture and metals, etc. These products are competitive in the British market. On the other hand, the UK enjoys advantages in sectors such as telecommunications, education, food, finance and logistics, to name just a few. With an enlarging middle-income group, China is becoming an increasingly huge consumption market, which presents significant business opportunities for the UK. Besides, the whole Chinese society is striving to undertake its commitment with respect to carbon emissions peak and carbon neutrality. In this context, China and the UK share great opportunities for cooperation in terms of environmental protection, clean energy and industrial digitalization.
Nevertheless, Chinese companies doing business in the UK are still faced with difficulties under the backdrop of the complex global landscape. International travel and logistics have been stifled by the pandemic, raising the costs of trade in both goods and services. Moreover, Chinese companies also face certain trade and investment restrictions and investigations imposed by the British government.
In order to create a more enabling environment for Chinese and British businesses and to boost China-UK economic cooperation, more efforts need to be made by both sides. First of all, we should refrain from politicizing business to ensure that commercial activities operate under the appropriate laws and regulations. Second, a fair, transparent and stable business environment should be created for realizing mutual benefits. We are living in a world full of challenges and opportunities. Further cooperation potential will be unleashed only with eased market access. Third, we should reject unilateralism and protectionism, stay committed to globalization and multilateralism, and seek win-win cooperation. These are the fundamental principles China has always advocated and adhered to in the international arena. We believe this is the only right way to bring about sustainable engagement and long-term prosperity among the countries of the world.
China and the UK are both major global economies. By working together, I believe we will build back better, and we will embrace a brighter future with new impetus and outcomes. ¬