Despite recent challenges, London says it remains 'open for business'
The United Kingdom's Department for International Trade has reaffirmed its commitment to bilateral relations with China, as the triple concerns of Brexit, the novel coronavirus pandemic, and geopolitical tensions continue to impact commercial activity between the two nations.
John Edwards, who is the department's trade commissioner for China, said the UK "welcomes Chinese investment" and that Britain remains "open for business" as it navigates its way out of the European Union.
Edwards spoke from the online launch of a new report from the China Chamber of Commerce in the UK, or CCCUK, on the development of Chinese enterprises in Britain.
"China is an important member of the international community," Edwards said. "Its size, rising economic power, and influence make it an important partner in tackling the biggest global challenges. We have a policy of engagement with China and our approach will remain consistent, even if difficulties emerge."
Speaking from the launch event, China's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Liu Xiaoming, said both China and the UK are about to embark on "new stages of development", with the Brexit transition window closing on Dec 31 and China poised to replace high-speed growth with high-quality growth during the period of its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25).
Liu said China and the UK are "important business partners" and emphasized the need to "strengthen confidence in China-UK business cooperation".
"The pandemic reminds us once again that the world is a community," Liu said. "A certain country, out of its political agenda, has been clamoring for economic decoupling, and parallel systems. However, it has become increasingly clear that globalization is an irreversible trend of history and the only road to progress."
In its report, the CCCUK surveyed 75 Chinese businesses in the UK, analyzing their health and longevity and assessing past and future challenges for growth.
More than half of the companies surveyed were small to medium-sized enterprises, with annual revenue of less than 5 million pounds ($6.7 million), while 17 percent of companies posted revenue of 100 million pounds or more in 2019.
The CCCUK revealed a strong contribution to the UK from the Chinese business community. Three-quarters of companies have reinvested all or the majority of their profits generated by their UK operations back into the UK, while 60 percent of businesses employing fewer Chinese employees than those of other nationalities.
Companies identified the impact of the current geopolitical landscape on China-UK relations as the biggest challenge in conducting business in the UK, followed by cultural differences between the two countries.
Vince Cable, the former secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, said the UK government's decision to ban Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from British mobile networks may have a negative impact on bilateral business relations.
"When I was in government, we had a really excellent relationship with Huawei, who have made a big contribution to the UK," Cable said from the online event. "I am saddened that, because of wider political concerns, that it is no longer expanding."
A little more than half of companies said they had confidence in the UK's handling of Brexit, and only 19 percent predicted a slowdown in their investment due to Brexit. However, 64 percent of companies said they would be negatively impacted in the event of the UK failing to secure an EU trade deal before the transition deadline.
(Source: China Daily Global)