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UK business leaders welcome Xi comments at Boao Forum

By Angus McNeicein London | | Updated: 2018-04-13 18:13

British business leaders have welcomed comments made this week by President Xi Jinping about the protection of foreign intellectual property rights in China, and about the status of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Speaking at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2018, an annual event that is sometimes called “Asia’s Davos”, Xi said that China will engage in “extensive consultation” with other nations who are partners in the major international infrastructure and economic development project known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

Xi said China “has no geopolitical calculations”, will seek no exclusionary blocs, and impose no business deals on others as it moves forward with the initiative.

Tom Troubridge, chairman of the China Business Group at British accountancy company PwC, said Xi’s comments will help clarify the purpose of the Belt and Road Initiative to its critics.

“Clearly there has been some skepticism about exactly what China’s agenda is, so President Xi’s words are obviously reassuring,” Troubridge said. “Some have said it’s just about giving China’s construction companies something to do – now that the main construction boom is starting to tail off in China itself – and also a way of projecting soft power across Asia. But it is going to do a lot of good for a lot of relatively poor countries, and there’s no reason why the UK shouldn’t support it, provided these projects are done in a sustainable way.

He said that the Belt and Road Initiative presents “huge opportunities” for British companies, especially in the engineering, financial, and legal services sectors.

“At the business level, we are already cooperating furiously, and very pro Belt and Road,” Troubridge said.

Lord Mayor of the City of London Charles Bowman, who recently led a delegation to China to promote London’s role in the Belt and Road Initiative, said the UK capital is the “natural Western hub” for the initiative.

“President Xi’s comments on the Belt and Road will have been welcomed by many people around the world, including here in the UK,” Bowman said. “With billions of funding already allocated for projects, the time is right to really kick-start this project of the century, leveraging London’s expertise in the services and soft infrastructure required to build links from East to West, in areas including, among many others, legal services, consultancy and green finance.”

A Department for International Trade spokesperson said: “The Belt and Road Initiative holds significant commercial potential for the UK – from supporting sustainable infrastructure to digital innovation and public health.

“As an international economic department, we want businesses across the UK to seize global opportunities. That’s why we are making up to 25 billion pounds ($35.6 billion) of funding available for UK exporters and buyers of UK goods and services along the Belt and Road Initiative so that no viable export fails for a lack of funding.”

During his keynote speech at the Boao Forum, Xi also said government will ramp up its efforts to protect intellectual property rights for local and foreign companies operating in China.

“Improving property rights protection will enhance the competitiveness of the Chinese economy,” the president said.

Xi said the government will reorganize the State Intellectual Property Office this year, step up law enforcement, and significantly raise the cost for offenders.

Tim Moss, chief executive of the UK government’s Intellectual Property Office, said a healthy and balanced intellectual property system is “important for economic competitiveness”.

“I welcome President Xi’s commitment to IP protection and look forward to supporting detailed implementation,” he said. “I will be interested to see further developments following recent announcements, including upcoming IP legislative revisions and initiatives to encourage appropriate cross-border technology co-operation.”

Tania Clark, president of the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys, said the Chinese patent and trademark system “seems increasingly to be harmonized toward the processes of other countries”.

“All intellectual property practitioners will be heartened by the encouraging words in President Xi’s speech,” Clark said. “A solid and trusted intellectual property system is a cornerstone of international and domestic trade.”

Stephen Jones, president of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, said: “We welcome President Xi Jinping’s commitment to strengthening intellectual property rights in China and improvements in enforcement of rights.”

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