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China, UK aim to enhance trade ties

By JING SHUIYU | China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-27 09:41

Two sides agree to revitalize their cooperation in post-Brexit era

China and the United Kingdom will push for new progress in economic cooperation and look at the possibility of reaching a high-level free trade agreement after the UK leaves the European Union, the Ministry of Commerce said after high-level talks.

At the 13th conference of the China-UK Joint Economic and Trade Commission in Beijing on Friday, the two sides agreed to improve bilateral investment and services trade and to increase cooperation between local authorities and companies.

Commerce Minister Zhong Shan described China-UK relations as being in a "golden era" and said the conference aimed to put into effect the consensus on economic and trade cooperation reached by the two countries' leaders at the beginning of the year, seeking new progress in trade and investment.

British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the UK hopes the two countries will expand the policy coordination, develop new drivers of trade and investment growth and reach agreements on higher-level economic ties.

The meeting came at a time of tit-for-tat tariffs enacted by China and the United States in their trade dispute over the past few months.

Zhong said the US-launched trade war, which seriously violates WTO rules, is unilateralist and bullying, and that the US accusations against China's protection of intellectual property rights are not in line with the facts.

There is no winner in a trade war, Zhong said, stressing that China does not want a trade war but neither is it afraid of one and will resolutely defend the interests of the country and its people.

Fox said the UK firmly supports free trade, opposes unilateralism and protectionism, and hopes China and the US will resolve their differences through consultation.

Since 2017, China has been the UK's sixth-largest export market and third-largest source of imports. In the first seven months of 2018, their bilateral trade volume amounted to 279.2 billion yuan ($41 billion), a 7.6 percent year-on-year decrease, according to the General Administration of Customs.

Gao Jian, deputy director of the Center of British Studies at Shanghai International Studies University, said, "There is vast potential for China and Britain to cooperate in finance, manufacturing, environmental protection and green, energy-saving industries.

"Infrastructure construction, such as nuclear energy and high-speed railway projects, will be a priority in future cooperation," Gao said.

At the conference, Zhong welcomed the UK to be guest of honor at the first China International Import Expo, in Shanghai in November, and hoped it would make full use of the expo to increase its exports to China.

Fox said Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, will lead a delegation to the expo and help bring more products and services into the Chinese market.

China and the UK also agreed to expand collaboration on the Belt and Road Initiative, including cooperation between companies from both sides to explore third-party markets. Views were also exchanged on high technology and intellectual property rights, 5G, mutual recognition of standards, legal services cooperation and easier work visas.

The ministers witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding on establishing a China-UK services trade working group.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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